League, The: By Billups Allen, 192 pgs. By Kurt

The League is a quick-moving story about Martin Selby, a twenty-something who has recently moved from the East Coast to a California college town in the desert. Trying to overcome social anxiety, obesity, and a shitty job, he eventually finds some relief in sumo wrestling with his new friend, Chuy. As Martin and Chuy get into sumo, they go to a tournament in Hawaii where things start coming apart for Martin.

The first half of The League proves to be an encouraging tale. Billups Allen does a fine job at making Martin a relatable character who has his share of problems. The issues of anxiety and battling with weight are things that many people can relate to, and I wondered how much of the author was in Martin because he did such a good job at characterizing him. As Martin found friends and got into sumo, it was satisfying to see him grow and gain confidence.

The descriptions painted by the author were great. I could picture how dreary the college town in the desert was. The portrayal of Martin’s apartment further added to his depressive environment. I also enjoyed learning about something like sumo, which I didn’t know anything about before. It was easy to understand how much this activity meant to Martin and Chuy.

I did, however, find the significant change that occurs later in Hawaii—and the material after it—was a bit harder to follow. It gets much darker and Martin’s story—while not necessarily a bad choice—went from being relatable and understandable to bordering on fantastical. It was such an abrupt turn that I couldn’t help but wonder if the latter half of the story was a dream or an alternate reality.

I read a lot—usually non-fiction—so I’m not always the best at picking up on ideas and themes in fiction. Thus, with the turn in The League, I know I missed something. I can’t say that Allen did anything wrong. Some readers just pick this stuff up better than I do. But I really want to get it! And I can’t help but wonder if there was anything Allen could’ve done to help less learned fiction readers like myself understand where he was going.

Regardless, the latter half of the book still kept me engaged and was well-written. I tore through The Leaguein about a day. It’s a fun, entertaining read, written by a guy with talent (and unlike many self-published books, it looks good and the editing is solid!). I’d definitely recommend picking up The League.Kurt Morris (billupsallen.com)