Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa (book review)

I've learned to mistrust books described as "coming of age story".

This is mostly because they are all, essentially without exception, absolutely depressing as hell.  And Kicking the Sky by Anthony De Sa is no different.

Now sometimes things are depressing, especially when you're a teenager.  And sometimes things are good.  And sometimes there are books like this one, and like Catcher in the Rye, where nothing good EVER happens to the protagonist.  As opposed to a more balanced and realistic story where good things occasionally happen (as they do in real life, even if your life is really shitty), like The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  And I know that's because the writer would like us to feel the depth of their angst, but really it just serves to make the book unrelatable and unpleasant to read.  The lack of any redeeming moments or characters is what makes Kicking the Sky into a long, drawn-out, masochistic bore.

So why did I pick up Kicking the Sky knowing what type of book it was?  The premise involving a murder as the catalyst of loss of innocence was very intriguing, especially a real-life murder.  But this event is hardly mentioned at all in the middle section of the book, almost as if the author forgot about it while he was busy writing about all the terrible things that happened to everyone.  Considering the main characters are 11- and 12-year-old boys, there's lots of sex (most of it non-consensual) and drug use, assaults, and dead people that nobody seems to mind too much about.  I get that they are supposed to be neglected latch-key kids, but somebody's getting raped or molested in some way in pretty much every chapter. It was totally unnecessary.  We got it the first umpteen times, their lives are shitty and they're exposed to a bunch of crap they shouldn't be.  Which makes me question whether they had any innocence to lose to begin with, and whether protagonist Antonio can actually be pining for a childhood that didn't really exist to begin with.  So the story also falls short on that account as well, as I can hardly assume that Antonio's family suddenly woke up one day as terrible people after a childhood supposedly full of happiness.

Usually I like to build a "compliments sandwich" for my book reviews, where I talk about what I liked, then talk about the parts I didn't, and then end with something positive.  But I'm just not sure I can with this one.  It's not a dramatic story about growing up, it's just a bunch of terrible things happening to people over and over and over, with no happy moments to break up the action and create realism.  Give this one a pass.

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