What if Holden Caulfield were coming of age -- and coming out -- in the Reagan years? Ben Smith is a sometimes clever, often confused, but ultimately irresistible catcher in the wry. Through the window of Ben's intimacies and observations, we remember what it was to be 14, freaked out by life, and never more eager to see what would happen next.
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Mixing touches of the mundane and the melodramatic, Brown's confessional debut novel views the bittersweet first year of high school through the eyes of a 13-year-old who's just realizing he doesn't quite fit in. Ben Smith is the youngest in a family whose bonds are fraying. His alcoholic father has left his mother for another woman. His mother is too depressed to leave the house, much less get a job. Brother Jeff is the graduating basketball star in a town so small that no one outside the paper route notices his achievements. Grandma is a Holy Roller. And Ben is a typically confused teen who records his innermost thoughts in a hot-pink notebook, a place where he can unconditionally reveal himself without threat of reprisal. In his first few months at Chappaqua High School in rural Maine, he falls in love with his classmate Aaron and takes his first steps toward nonconformity. But the joy of first love ends abruptly when a jealous friend photographs the two boys kissing in the supply closet. Sent by his parents to summer camp to "beat this thing," he re-closets himself even though he has been "outed" in high school. By summer's end, though, he is able to come to terms with himself, and as he reflects on the last tumultuous year, he knows that he more than fills the bill of the sophomore, the "wise fool." Entries will appeal to those who want to reflect on the angst of adolescence from a safe distance as well as those embarking on the journey.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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