HUGE by James W. Fuerst
â€śâ€¦most people around here would tell you that I was meaner than a short-order cook and more tarnished than all the girls in Catholic school. So I had two strikes against me from the jump. But I had one thing in my favor: I wasnâ€™t afraid of a goddamn thing.â€ť
Review by Chris “C.T.” Terry (AUG 29, 2009)
James W. Fuerstâ€™s Huge is a riff on a classic hardboiled detective novel. It is noir scaled down to the suburbs, as traversed by a kid on the cusp of middle school. Video arcades take the place of bars, and high school football players are the hired goons. Instead of being narrated by a jaded man with a suit and a whiskey bottle, the story is told by a chocolate milk guzzling, jam shorts wearing, twelve-year-old boy.
Huge, the narrator, has been enlisted to find out who vandalized the sign in front of his grandmotherâ€™s nursing home. As he bikes across his cruddy New Jersey town, interrogating his sisterâ€™s stoner boyfriend, dodging enraged jocks and mustering the courage to talk to his crush, the reader learns that the stakes lie in Hugeâ€™s dissatisfaction with his place, low on the totem pole, in the local social pecking order.
See, Hugeâ€™s life is insanely dysfunctional. He doesnâ€™t remember his dad, his mom works two service jobs to support the family, he has a high IQ and serious anger management issues, and the public schools have written him off as a behavior problem. No one will give him a chance.
While Huge was suspended from school for decking his teacher, his beloved grandmother gave him a stack of old mystery novels by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Huge spent three months reading these books instead of going to school, and they helped him to hone a cynical, smart-talking outlook on the world.
Huge is the skillful balance between two stories; the path that Huge follows, based on his own perceptions, and the things that are really happening around him, which are subtly hinted at throughout the narrative. Fuerst has a wonderful unreliable narrator in Huge, who is very intelligent, but whose naĂŻvetĂ© leads him to jump to dramatic conclusions, then overreact comically. Based on an overheard phone call, Huge â€śfigures outâ€ť that his sisterâ€™s boyfriend has turned her into an addict and drug mule. This knowledge compels the ever-loyal Huge to crash a high school party to save his sister, leading to the novelâ€™s laugh out loud climax.
Huge is a smart kid, which gives the author some room to breathe with the narrative voice. Still, there are times when Huge is describing things with a sardonic, hardboiled delivery that makes him sound unbelievably wise beyond his years. The language is great, but it doesnâ€™t always sound like a preteen boy. That is the only real flaw of Huge, but it may work to the bookâ€™s advantage, making it all the more enjoyable for older readers. In that way, Huge is the book that any author of young adult fiction wishes to write, one that will be equally captivating for adolescent and adult readers, especially ones with a soft spot for a good mystery.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 23 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (July 7, 2009)|
|REVIEWER:||Chris “C.T.” Terry|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||James W. Fuerst|
Beatrice interview with James W. Fuerst
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||More kid detectives:
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Kiki Inside the Shadow City by Kirstin Miller
More fun with classic hardboiled detective genre:
Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed by Marc Blatte
Fifty-to-One by Charles Ardai
City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate
- Huge (July 2009)