American Youth: A Novel

Here’s a book that manages to get inside an American kid’s skin, not just his head. Phil Lamarche’s first novel is set in the economically depressed northeast, where longtime residents are being displaced by folks with city money and uptown sensibilities. Ted, a skinny 14-year-old who lacks in social skills, is showing off his father’s rifle to a pair of neighbors when he’s distracted by his mother. One boy shoots, and kills, his younger brother. From there, sides are drawn: gun nuts versus firearm ’phobes, rural hunters versus urban eco-friendly natural-food shoppers, bleeding-heart liberals versus a more polite if not kinder and gentler bunch of skinheads. Readers jump on the rollercoaster right alongside young Ted, and it’s apparent from the beginning that it’s going to be a dark ride.