The Tragic Age

Finished The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.”

I know that the comparisons to Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders are both pretty bold statements.  They’re also both pretty apt.  This book is one I would’ve loved if I had read it in high school (I loved it now, when I am in my mid-30s).  It’s an incredibly caustic book but also one that doesn’t continue on the myth that high school is the best years of your life.

I loved the characters in this, and also the general plot.  This is a story about grief but at the same time, Billy’s grief for his twin sister never overcomes everything else.  It colors his life but it doesn’t really rule it, if that makes sense.

At any rate, this book is relentlessly clever, laugh out loud funny and completely its own thing.  I can’t wait to see what Stephen Metcalfe does next.

Highly recommended.


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