St Martin's Griffin
March 3, 2015
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This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.
With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at. The tragic age.
Stephen Metcalfe's brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.
Reading The Tragic Age was interesting for me. I wasn't that sure if I liked the main character and narrator, Billy. Yet, something about this character kept me reading.
His 'sidebar,' 'point of reference' and 'fact's (you'll understand better if you read the book) were incredibly random and/or perfectly relevant. It made him - and his story - really stand out from anything else I've read. Even as he took you away from the story he was telling, you're pulled farther in.
Somehow, breaking into a nice, linear recollection of Billy's sister in the hospital to explain Dresden Dolls and flammability, works. All of these little interruptions also paint a better picture of who Billy is than any sort of omniscient viewpoint, or a sanitized first person narration could hope to.
Even still unsure of if I liked Billy or he annoyed me or what, The Tragic Age is a book I couldn't put down. Besides Billy and his incredibly compelling narration, the other characters are all really well done. Gretchen, Twom, Ephraim and the other characters who are - or become - part of Billy's life each have things that make them intriguing characters; things that make them a fascinating, unique addition to both Billy's life and the novel. They are complex, well developed characters that don't quite seem like they should fit together, yet they do.
Then, with Billy's observations on the characters, the things he wonders or notices about them, their families, their lives, you have something entirely new to consider. Something about who they are, who Billy is, who they are to each other, etc.
The story in The Tragic Age takes some incredibly wild, crazy and, honestly, strange turns. Through it all, though, the characters stay true, their relationships make more sense, their differences become more apparent, as do their similarities. And it somehow all works - really well. It stays an incredibly readable book you won't want to put down until the end. A book - and character - I was not sure about at first, now that I've read it I know I won't forget either of them.
received, from publisher, through NetGalley for this tour review