So this is the first novel by Frank Portman, (better known to the pop punk world as Dr. Frank, of The Mr. T Experience), a coming of age novel for teens, which I suppose isn’t that much of a surprise coming from the man who wrote songs such as “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Bridge to Teribithia.” But no, this isn’t just “a book about a girl.” It’s fairly safe to assume Portman didn’t want this to come off as another “I was miserable as a kid until I got into punk” story, but it’s hard not to see the similarities.
The story follows Tom Henderson, who lives in a world filled with the same weird stuff you’d expect to hear about from the MTX’s contemporaries (or for that matter, would expect to deal with living in the suburbs that everyone tries to keep secret, as I can vouch). He deals with excessive bullying, trying to attract girls, as well as finally trying to start his own rock band (and, by all means, Tom’s constant name-changing band still did more than my own in high school). To make things interesting, Tom has also taken it upon himself to try to solve some of the mystery surrounding his father’s death, which revolves around The Catcher in the Rye and the notes left within his father’s copy. All of the parts eventually tie in together somehow—much like how life has a funny way of doing that sometimes.
I may not have been a teenager for a few years now, but I still found this to be an enjoyable story overall. My only real complaint is with, at times, the first person narration. There’s no way to nicely put it, but even the smartest, nicest teenagers can be pretty dumb most of the time (at least, speaking from personal experience), so calling everything “gay” and “retarded” starts to get a little irksome after a while, but it seems to stop after a while. The same goes for the constant abbreviations for everything (again, I’m guilty of this NOW, let alone when I was that age). Overall, this is a pretty good read whether you can relate to it now, or for nostalgic reasons. –Joe Evans III (Delacorte Press, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019)