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The Last Exit to Normalby Michael Harmon
Synopses & Reviews
Its true: After 17-year-old Bens father announces hes gay and the family splits apart, Ben does everything he can to tick him off: skip school, smoke pot, skateboard nonstop, get arrested. But he never thinks hell end up yanked out of his city life and plunked down into a small Montana town with his dad and Edward, The Boyfriend. As if its not painful enough living in a hick town with spiked hair, a skateboard habit, and two dads, he soon realizes somethings not quite right with Billy, the boy next door. Hes hiding a secret about his family, and Ben is determined to uncover it and set things right. In an authentic, unaffected, and mordantly funny voice, Michael Harmon tells the wrenching story of an uprooted and uncomfortable teenaged guy trying to fix the lives around him-while figuring out his own.
"Two gay men struggling against prejudices in the rural West may conjure images from Brokeback Mountain, but this novel has less to do with unconventional romance than a teenager dealing with unwelcome changes. Bitter about the dissolution of his 'normal' family after his father came out three years ago (an announcement that made his mother leave for good), 17-year-old Ben dreads moving from Spokane, Wash., to rural Montana, where his father's partner, Edward, grew up. Starting over in a small town 'where gay dudes and their boyfriends don't go over well' looks impossible to Ben. Tracking Ben's transformation from rebellious city boy to hard-working cowboy, Harmon (Skate) digs beneath the stereotypes of gays and rednecks to tackle issues emerging when conservative and liberal values clash. Some of Ben's prejudices about the West prove to be true: Miss Mae, Edward's mother, makes Ben live in the woodshed until he starts obeying her; the Pentecostal next-door neighbor believes Ben's family is going to hell. But Miss Mae has surprising complexities to her character, and Ben, itching to save the neighbor's son from obvious abuse and what seems to be local indifference, has a lot to learn about appearances. Harmon coaxes readers past some far-fetched plotting (Ben saves lives and rockets to hero status) with skillful, often witty insights into human nature; because his take on people is convincing, audiences will want to believe in his story, too. Ages 14-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Michael Harmon is the author of Skate, “a remarkable first novel,” according to Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Spokane, Washington, where he is at work on his next novel for Knopf.
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