Library Journal Review
Multi-award-winning writer/artist Small (Stitches) returns with an important novel about adolescence and the search for identity. In the mid-1950s, Russell Pruitt and his father, a Korean War veteran, flee Ohio and settle in the rural town of Marshfield, CA. His father takes a job teaching English to prisoners at San Quentin, and Russell spends his days exploring, eventually befriending a boy named Warren. After a sexual encounter with Warren leaves Russell shaken, he ends that friendship and takes up with some rough, smart-aleck neighborhood kids. Their days are filled with wandering, riding bikes, and fantasizing about their futures, and all is idyllic until one of Russell's new friends hatches a sinister scheme to ruin the reputation of poor, rejected Warren. Small is a masterful illustrator, with an incredible ability to establish his characters' inner lives through physical gestures or facial expressions, conveying a kaleidoscopic style of storytelling reminiscent of filmmaker Terrence -Malick. VERDICT While the incredible success of Stitches, a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Young Adult Library Services Association's Alex Award, might have seemed almost impossible to follow up, Small has managed to create an even more resonant and stirring work. [See -Prepub Alert, 4/9/18.]-TB © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Veteran artist and illustrator Small turns a deeply focused lens onto the isolation, loneliness, and relentless cruelty of male adolescence in this immensely powerful new work. Set in a small California town in the 1950s, this is light-years away from Mayberry. Thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt, abandoned by his mother and losing his father to a slow decline into alcoholism, navigates a seemingly endless minefield of social interactions as he attempts to integrate into his new school and neighborhood. As calculating as he is desperate for connection, Russell trades one uncomfortable friendship for two others, a decision that results in devastating results felt throughout the entire community. The dark narrative would be oppressive but for the unexpected kindness shown by a Chinese immigrant couple and several small, quietly profound moments of beauty. Drawn in Small's signature style, the narrative feels more like a series of sketches that capture the choices made by Russell and the people around him; snapshots of actions and consequences than a traditional narrative. The illustrations, limited to pen, ink, and washes done in a simple, loosely sketched style, convey the nuanced range of emotion of all things left unsaid. Spare and powerful, this is not to be missed.--Hayes, Summer Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Review
Prominent picture-book illustrator Small (Imogene's Antlers, 2013, etc.) follows up his critically acclaimed 2009 graphic memoir, Stitches, with another look into the turmoil of adolescence in 1950s America.Russell is a sensitive, introspective boy of 13, which makes him easy prey for life's everyday brutalities. After his parents divorce, he heads from Ohio to California with his Korean War veteran fathera man who dismisses his son's concern over a stray puppy in a motel parking lot (said puppy is then struck down by a semi on a lonely stretch of highway). The Golden State doesn't prove to be the land of opportunity that Russell's father had hoped it would be, exposing Russell to xenophobia, animal mutilation, and abandonment. As Russell navigates life in a small, "Anywhere, U.S.A." town in Northern California, his greatest challenges arise through the relationships he developswith his alcoholic father, with an outcast classmate who helps him elude bullies but exposes him to odd rituals, with the clique he forms with two roughhousing friends, one of whom is particularly good at pushing buttons in a bad-boy, alpha-male way. Russell struggles to understand himself and his place in the world and along the way makes regrettable decisions, sometimes tinged with violence, so the inexplicable kindness and charity of an older immigrant couple proves particularly vexing to the boy. Small is a master storyteller, moving the tale swiftly through pages with a wonderful array of panels, many of which are wordless or have just a choice bit of dialogue or narration; his illustrationsemotive, kinetic, with a striking balance of realism and cartoon and particularly arresting facial expressionsspeak volumes. Grappling with questions of identity and society, the story has the authenticity and ache of universal experiencefiltered through the singular eye of a visionary.Powerful and profound. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.