I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Huge by Jim Fuerst.
Sometimes when I’m trying to summarize a book, I’ll think about how I would explain it to my mom. Historical romance is good, art is good, teenagers are generally bad, and for some reason 13-year-old boys specifically are her arch mortal enemies. I don’t know exactly why, but when she talks about the current state of cinema, she’ll often turn her nose up at movies which are “obviously all made for 13-year-old boys.’ They’re like her mid-80’s Red Menace. I should introduce her to some 25-year-old Judd Apatow fans, blow her mind. Manboys they’re the real enemy.
So when I got Huge, my internal conversation went something like this: It’s about a 12-year-old boy with rage issues. No, come back! It’s really good, and he’s smart and funny and idolizes noir detectives and loves his grandma. Eugene ‘Huge’ Smalls is indeed a scrawny, angry, deeply confused adolescent, but Jim Fuerst has distilled that middle class white kid angst into something fine and fierce. Set against the grim yet familiar backdrop of suburban New Jersey, parking lots and shopping malls, subdivisions and high schools, Huge and his partner Thrash (about whom I can say little except that Thrash is a nearly perfect creation) set about trying to solve a case of vandalism at his grandmother’s nursing home. The stakes are low but to a kid like Huge, there was never anything more important. Huge affects the world weary prose of his heroes, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, yet thanks to his somewhat limited worldview and experience he misreads and misinterprets nearly every clue, conversation, gesture and event he encounters. The plot is fairly complicated as allegiances among his schoolmates, wary friends and blood enemies, are made and broken there’s even a chase scene and a couple of dames. On the other hand, there’s also his exasperated yet loving mother and his sister, who has her own agenda and whose investment in Huge’s life struck me as a bit over the top.
I was never a teenage boy, so I can’t say for sure whether the cauldron of hormones and hostility boils as hot for Huge as for most of them.Ê I’m just so glad I’m not a teenager anymore. Incidentally, this book may be about junior high students, but the language and some of the situations are decidedly adult.