Hawaii Punk: By Raoul Vehill, 399 pgs. By Evan Katz

May 14, 2009

Countless novels and films have romanticized the untamed spirit of youth. Punk rock itself has always embodied the devil-may-care attitude that defines being young. We worship at the altar of youth, celebrate it in pop culture… struggle to grasp onto it as we age. Sometimes, though, in our zeal to embrace the child inside, we manage to overlook one key thing…
Young people are fucking stupid.
Hawaii Punk, a partially fictionalized account of Raoul Vehill’s time in the early ‘80s Hawaiian punk scene illustrates this point in extreme detail. The book follows Paul Cruz aka “Pig Rock,” head vocalist of a local punk band called God Dog (chosen because it can be spelled the same backwards and forwards). Paul spends most of his time crashing on couches, going to strip clubs, playing shows, doing cocaine… and chasing high school girls. Scratch that, he spends basically ninety-eight percent of his time chasing high school girls. For the majority of the novel he seems to be having a pretty damn good time, but eventually his hard partying ways catch up with him and send the young man into a spiral of harder drugs, harder love, and eventual chilling violence.
This book is a hard one to love initially. I couldn’t really sympathize with the lead, who didn’t have any problem breaking underage chick’s hearts, just so he could latch onto the next waiting girl. Chapters and chapters are filled with nothing but long descriptions of his pining for a young girl, his pursuit of the young girl… and a highly detailed sex scene with said young girl. Then he’d breakup, and we’d start fresh in the next chapter. It’s actually pretty maddening. The prose isn’t spectacular, and it’s hard to grasp deeper meaning beyond the character’s love of sex.
Yeah, I get it, young people really like to party, but I kind of wanted to get a better sense of what the actual Hawaiian punk rock scene was like at that time—or any time—for that matter. After the eighth sex scene, you start to wonder what the point is. It’s only towards the very end of the book when the author’s intent becomes clear, and by then the consequences of the lead character’s actions hits you like a ton of lead. There’s a method to the madness here. I was taken by surprise, and ultimately rewarded by sticking around for the final pages.
Hawaii Punk reminds us that even though it is a real blast to be young, there are plenty of casualties on the road to adulthood… and in the end, young people are just really fucking stupid. –Evan Katz (Enlightened Pyramid Publications, www.enlightened-pyramid.com/)



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