When I started reading this book, I was expecting something totally different than what it gave me; which isn’t a bad thing.
I was expecting a bit of a coming of age story about the main character, Lyle Rettew, with a bit of a mystery involved (the death of his twin sister). What I got was a strong look at and a wild ride into the mind of a mentally unstable individual who replaces his prescription meds with something a bit more “recreational.”
The novel starts out with Lyle and his family (depressed mother and religiously fanatic older brother), who have moved from Idaho to Eugene, Ore., after the suicide of Lyle’s twin sister. Her drowning has had a severe impact on each of them, naturally. Lyle’s mother kind of floats through life, brother Craig is more rigid than ever, and Lyle goes off his meds.
Trying to make a new life, Lyle makes friends with the local group of kids in town and falls for the younger Rosa. As Lyle’s mind gets more and more tangled with his manic depression, we see just how far Lyle is willing to go to try to get closure.
Ryan Blacketter is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (a very prestigious accomplishment, in the writing community), and his skills come through on the page. From the opening line, “Levi’s Café stood in a city block of pines—just that one, small lighted building in the center of the grove,” the reader is swallowed by Blacketter’s ability to create atmosphere and really make the setting a separate character. Telling the story from the point of view of a person suffering from manic depression, Blacketter does a good job of writing in a scattered, non-linear way (which at times was a bit hard for me to follow, and I had to go back and re-read something to see if I had accidentally skipped a page).
I don’t know what age group I’d recommend this book for. The main character, Lyle, is a teenager, but the storyline is very dark, with a lot of drug use and hinting at sexual activity. At the same time, the storyline is interesting enough for an adult. I think it would be safe to say that a more mature audience is best.
In the end, I’d recommend this book to those who don’t shy away from the hard and dark aspects of life. This is a good Boise author.