Monday, October 22, 2012

Life! Death! Prizes!

Author: Stephen May
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Genre: Contemporary (New Adult)
Series: No
Source: ARC from Publisher

Billy is left to take care of his brother Oscar after their mother is killed in a robbery gone wrong. Not everyone thinks nineteen-year-old Billy is the right one for the job, and the lax bedtimes, neglected housekeeping, and ignored healthy meals in the freezer don't add to his  credibility. Billy also has to deal with his preoccupation with his mother's killer and his drive to prove to himself, via the Life! Death! Prizes! headlines, that he doesn't have it that bad, that crazy and senseless things happen to people all the time, that others have it much worse than he does. But Billy fiercely loves Oscar and will do anything to keep him.

Billy is so confused. That's what hit me right from the start. He tries so hard to put up a brave face, to act like he has all the answers. That beard - he forgets to shave and then ends up liking his beard. I think it serves a double purpose - it makes him feel more like an adult, but at the same time, it hides him from the world. When he finally shaves it, he feels different, and I got the impression that he felt naked, exposed. His face was once again discernible. And all along, he's trying to hide behind a facade, pretending to be someone and something he's not. With Lucy, he's not attracted to her so much as he is attracted to what she represents, and that is the confidence that he so utterly lacks. He knows one thing: he loves Oscar and wants to protect him. But he has no idea what that even means. He learns things along the way, sure, but Billy is really just an old adolescent.

That's something about the book that I found really interesting. In England, a nineteen-year-old can buy beer for kids. In England, a nineteen-year-old is seen as an adult. In America, some things that happen in the story would never be able to happen simply because of the difference in the way Americans versus the British see teenagers. It's really a question of what a kid is, what an adult is, when that change happens, and who has the right to say when it is. Aunt Toni obviously feels that Billy is not quite an adult yet, but Billy feels he is, and the courts don't dismiss him right off the bat, so they at least consider the option that he could be a responsible adult. That's part of why the book is sort-of New Adult, sort of just plain adult, because Billy acts like an adult but thinks like a teenager most of the time. I don't think the question is answered in the book, it's just an interesting thing to think about.

There's really a lot to think about in this book, and I'm not going to go through each point. It's a poignant look at family and responsibility, told with pathos and wit.

No comments:

Post a Comment