Synopses & Reviews
A wise, bighearted, and hilarious look at one teenager's life by a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction.
It's 1992, and as Vim Sweeney deals with the recent end of his high school career and the uncertainty of his future, America shares his angst. In Seattle, Kurt Cobain reeks of teen spirit. In Washington, George Bush (the first one) has just finished rattling his saber at Saddam Hussein. And in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Vim is trying to put off adulthood and all that comes with it, whatever that is, for as long as he can. He's already juggling guitars, girls, and a long-absent biological father who's suddenly making noise about Wanting to Be Involved. And he still can't convince his friends why local schoolboy hero Derek Jeter is bound for obscurity.
Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way traces Vim's stumble toward adulthood as he comes to terms with his parents, balances friendships and infatuation with varying levels of success, and accepts that the things he thought would last forever probably won't. Generous in spirit and laugh-out-loud funny, here is a novel that introduces a tremendous new talent and deftly captures the alternately amusing and harrowing process of holding on until you find your way.
"Recent high school grad Vincent Sweeney, though unmistakably sweet, also masquerades as crass, courts his own demise by baiting bar thugs, nurses rock star fantasies with his band, Judy Lumpers (it's grungy in 1992 Kalamazoo, Mich.), and plays indifferent after losing his virginity in a one-night stand. After flippantly quitting his dishwashing job, Vim (from a childhood mispronunciation) runs up against his stepfather's blue-collar bitterness with quiet acceptance and embarks on a short-distance road trip. Fits of rage and exaggerated lust, tinged with self-loathing, erupt from within a searing numbness, which puzzles Vim, and which he parses using lyrics from the like of Jim Morrison, Fugazi and Nirvana. Charles, in this debut, gives Vim an unevenly self-aware first person, making large portions of the book read like a vague, angry diary; they're dull, but come through as convincingly natural and make moments of connection (as with a bandmate's girlfriend) take on a special glow. (June 16)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Charles draws a loving if unforgiving portrait of the seedy, semirural Midwest. His approach plenty of heart and laugh-out-loud humor will invite comparisons to Nick Hornby, but let it be said that Charles does it his way." Booklist (starred review)
"As brave and funny a debut as I've read in a long time." Sam Lipsyte
"Shoots into you like a bolt of electricity, sparking all kinds of excited feelings about art and life and writing." Thomas Beller
"Charles will get inside your brain and make sense of it for you once and for all." Elizabeth Crane
"Funny and unpredictable...(Charles) proves impressively adept at capturing the inchoate ache of adolescent longing." Washington Post
About the Author
Bryan Charles was born in Michigan and lives in Brooklyn. His writing has appeared in Open City and the anthology Before and After: Stories From New York. This is his first novel.