Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/YA/Coming of Age
Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words
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The author of three novels and two short story collections, Julie Frayn lives in Calgary, Alberta where she’s a senior manager at a historical theme park. Her novel It isn’t Cheating if He’s Dead was the top vote getter in the Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction category of the 2014 BigAl’s Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Awards.
For more, visit Frayn’s website.
“Sixteen-year-old August Bailey yearns for more than pig slop and cow shit. She fantasizes about an apartment in the city, not a tiny house on an Iowa farm. She dreams of new clothes and falling in love with a worthy boy. Not hand-me-downs from the second hand store in Hubble Falls, population two-and-a-half, or having her jock boyfriend grope her and push her for sex. During another fight about makeup and boys, August’s controlling mother slaps her. And August hops the next bus out of town.
She arrives in Charlesworth to discover that reality and fantasy don’t mix. After a night of gunfire and propositions from old, disgusting men, she is determined to find the ‘real city,’ the ‘real people’ of her dreams. To prove to her mother, and herself, that she is the adult she claims to be.
When her money runs out, she is ‘saved’ by seventeen-year-old Reese, a kind boy with electric eyes and a gentleman’s heart. Reese lives on the streets. Though clean for months, he battles heroin addiction and the compulsion to cut himself. Each day is a struggle to make the right choice.
August falls in love with Reese, and knows her love can save him. She breaks down his emotional walls and he tells her his secrets – of abuse and the truth about his mother’s death.
As Reese’s feelings for August grow, so does the realization that keeping her could ruin her life too.
Suicide City is an edgy young adult novel. Told from the points of view of August, Reese, and August’s mother, the story takes an honest and sometimes explicit look at some hard realities including teen homelessness, drug use, child abuse and prostitution. But at its heart, it is the story of first love – and the consequences of every choice made.”
I’ve read and loved Julie Frayn’s other novels. Suicide City keeps the streak going. This book has a lot in common with the others, yet in many ways felt much different. I’ll try exploring those feelings, but first the commonalities.
As with all of Frayn’s novels, I found it easy to relate to the main characters and quickly cared about them. Each looks at someone experiencing difficulties that while not universal (as in not everyone experiences them), they are also not uncommon. Each story explores some of the dark corners of society and the human experience, but avoids doing so in a way that is too bleak and, in the end, feels uplifting and enlightening rather than being a downer.
Now for the differences. The biggest one is in the other books the situation the characters found themselves in was through no fault of their own. Here, August is at least partially responsible. However, I didn’t find this to make her any less sympathetic, nor did I have any trouble understanding why she chose to run away from home, as wrongheaded as it was. August is also younger than the protagonist in Frayn’s other novels and, as the author’s description says, this book is at least partially aimed at the young adult audience, calling it “edgy young adult.” And that’s the rub. Those in that cohort who might benefit the most in considering how this story turns out are the same kids whose overprotective parents would object to their child reading it, primarily because of adult language and mild sexual situations. That’s a shame. It’s a great story, suitable (at least in my opinion) for older teens and adults.
Minor adult content. Adult language.
No significant issues.
Rating: ***** Five Stars