The Tragic Age.  So this is probably going to be controversial

The Tragic Age.  So this is probably going to be controversial

The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe is being identified by reviewers as a Catcher in the Rye for the new generation, and that wouldn’t be far from the mark.  Guaranteed to be controversial, this book will probably be banned and protested.  I’m not sure if it is worth all the fuss — adolescent cynicism and it’s usual manifestation is still a thing, and it will be for generations to come.

Billy’s cynical and disengaged approach to life begins an evolution when two key players enter his isolated sphere.  One is the vibrant best friend of his dead twin who reminds Billy that life does have its moments.  The other is a fearless delinquent who’s strange sense of honor and acts of indifferent rebellion draw Billy’s admiration.  One may be his downfall and the other may be his salvation, but both will be pivotal in shaping Billy during the year when he will come into his tragic age.  I’m a little stunned after finishing this one.  Like Billy, I assumed we were all just getting by, that is, until something bigger than I could process went down.  That was some ending!  It was amplified by the fact that, for the most part, the journey that led up to it was nothing more than ordinary life.  There was a believable amount of sexual fixation, home and school drama, and delinquency for a high school boy.  It was the journey that we all might have taken in a confused or angry phase.  This is what will make it appealing to thoughtful teen readers.  Billy’s snarky criticism of everyday absurdities in his intelligent internal dialogue will also be relevant and engaging for many YA’s.  A few things will make this less impressive to discerning parents. The sexual situations and mature language are fairly explicit and occur throughout the book — guaranteed to invite challenges in libraries.  A few times the book veered towards cliches and stereotypes, especially with the female characters.  Positive  adult influences were minimalized (read:  often shown to be as easily distracted as a dumb house pet), but that is part of the realism.  Overall, I found it engaging but I’m not sure the messages I got about friendship, growing up, society, or humanity were very clear.  I’m not sure if they were meant to be.  

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Don’t tell me you don’t know about Catcher in the Rye!  Goodreads Page


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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