Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: March 3, 2015 (Almost there!)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "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."
My Two Cents:
In "The Tragic Age," Billy is struggling. He has lost his twin sister, Dorie, and now it is just him and his parents who don't seem to know how to act around each other any more. Billy is trying to cope and the best way he knows how is to try to melt into the background. He doesn't talk to anyone at school anymore and he is totally withdrawn. It'll take a group of people, including Gretchen, Billy's love interest and Dorie's best friend, and the mysterious Twom to breathe some life back into Billy. This is a coming of age story that captures some of the difficult emotions that teenagers must deal with in great detail.
This book started out a bit confusing for me. To some degree, it felt as if Billy was keeping the reader at arm's length, which while frustrating for me, definitely kept in line with how Billy is feeling in the beginning of the book. As he begins to open up and the major action in the book begins to pick-up, I definitely got into the book more. Billy is a fascinating character. He is definitely going through a lot and we get to witness it alongside him.
The writing of the book really does a good job of capturing all of the chaos that Billy is feeling between his new friends, the trouble that they get into, and the chaos of his home life. I've seen the comparisons to Salinger here and there and there is a comparison to be made with regard to the issue of growing up. This book definitely has some major mature moments and therefore although this is a YA book, it may be more appropriate for older YA readers. The book deals with some pretty heavy topics like sex and suicide. Overall, this was a good front row seat to one teenager's inner turmoil.
Author Guest Post:
Today, Stephen Metcalfe is here on A Bookish Affair to discuss his writing process and how he got into the heads of his characters.
You had to ask.
I don’t really think much about “process”. I’m usually pretty disciplined about sitting down and working five days a week, three, four or five hours at a time. However. No matter where I am and what I’m doing – and my wife is nodding vigorously as I write this - the work is always swirling around the forefront of my brain. I even dream about it. Which means I’m never not working. (Of course, I enjoy what I do which also means I’ve never worked a day in my life.)
Any writing process I have begins quite some time before I begin putting words on a page. It usually starts with the recognition of a specific event. A young man is skateboarding down a hill and he runs into a car. Four young people break into a deserted house not to vandalize or steal but to just hang out. How? Why? What preceded this event? What follows it? Who exactly is he/are they? Concentric circles grow wider. One idea suggests another and then another. The playwright in me often turns these ideas into scenes. (I do, in fact, have a large in process file on my computer that’s filled with such scenes.) But just as often I’m storing them in the memory bank to let them ferment. (I spend a lot of time fermenting.)
When I finally sit down with a play, screenplay or novel to begin the actual writing, I have a good sense of where my starting point is and what my final destination will be. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get to that destination but I do know what it is and however rambling the road, I also know that I have some specific stops I want to check out along the way.
I read a lot. Mostly in small bites. It informs the work.
I rewrite constantly. I have I don’t know how many drafts of everything I’ve ever worked on. If I discover something new about my characters I have to do back and see how the new revelation affects all that’s come before. I’m constantly working on the rhythm of the words. They have to sound right to me.
When I was working on plays and screenplays I often worked on several things at a time. I find this impossible with a novel. It seems to be much more all consuming.Character. I feel my work has always been driven by my characters. Having said that, I have no idea where characters come from. I usually hear their voices first. I know what my characters feel and think, where they’re from and what they want, long before I know what they look like. Once I have a character in my head, I try not to impose anything on them. I follow their lead. Sometimes I feel like a director doing improvisations with talented actors. I throw out a specific objective. I then put up obstacles to said objective. Objective versus obstacle equals conflict. Action begets reaction which begets reflection which begets further action. We discover together. We journey together. We are often surprised together. Hopefully we all arrive together at our planned destination all roughly still in one piece.