Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sins of the Fathers--Chris Lynch

There's much to like about this YA book--quirky characters, fun dialogue, compelling relationships. And yet, the timing is distractingly elusive--Drew watches for the Hancock Tower windows to fall out (the big story upon the building's completion in 1973) while the Bruins are losing to the Mighty Ducks (a team that formed in 1993). Drew refers to the vinyl record as if it were a relic...meanwhile the atmosphere of the book shouts out Baby Boomer Childhood, as if it were a half-hearted attempt to bring the author's recollections of childhood in Boston into the present so kids will read it.

I so wanted to like these tough Boston Catholic boys, but, who were they? I kept checking back to see if maybe I'd gotten the ages wrong. Their dialogue is too smooth, their jokes are too clever, and they just aren't gawky enough. As 16-year-olds, maybe. But 13? Not even in the movies.

The crux of the book is the "tribe" of three sticking together through the changes in Drew and his friends. The sticking together part is clearly defined. The "tribe" part...well, never having been a 13-year-old tough Boston Catholic boy I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt on that one. But the rest is so subtle it risks being lost on the intended audience. Hector goes from being a model Catholic who beats up fellow "tribe" member Skitz for no apparent reason, to being a quieter Catholic who prays longer after confession and beats up a water rat. Meanwhile, Skitz's experimentation with glue-sniffing is illustrated by one scene in which he acts goofier than his usual goofy self.

Lynch has got some great stuff going on, though. I'd try another by him just for the fact that he can find a dozen clever ways of having boys tell each other "shuddup."

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. . . The author was 11 years old in 1973, and talks about windows falling out of the Hancock Tower in the voice of a 13 year in an otherwise contemporary setting?

    It seems like another example of the Baby Boomer generation's experience stretched across time -- their perspective as universal, their experience as the experience.