I enjoy reading Young Adult fiction. It’s cleansing and refreshing sometimes to see the innocence of youth and the less worldly problems they struggle with. And then there are books like The Namesake by Steven Parlato, his debut novel. It follows Evan Galloway in the months after his father’s suicide, an event that by itself will make a weighty novel.
Evan is a Junior. Almost. He has a different middle name from his father, and now that his father has committed suicide, he’s doing his best to move away from his father while at the same time trying to get to know him more than the surface level he did when his father was alive. The relationships are dysfunctional in his family from his grandmother who blames his mother for his father’s suicide – and vice versa – to the separation his mother and father were undergoing prior to the suicide to the one question Evan is allowed to ask his father each year on his birthday.
As Evan tries to determine why his father committed suicide, because of course there was no note, he discovers that he’s reliving his father’s life even more than he thought he was. His art teacher and mentor was his father’s best friend. They attended the same school, and many of the teachers are the same. And Evan learns that his sports focused father who disdains art was a talented artist in school. The after school job Evan gets to pay for an Encounter weekend (one his father also attended) turns out to be the same job in the same family-owned restaurant his father worked in high school.
Much of the book feels like a Lifetime Movie waiting to happen. There are so many hints dropped throughout the book that you know the major drama points chapters before they happen. It’s somewhat heavy-handed, and no one person should have this much drama in one life, left alone ten months.
The more Even searches, the more secrets he uncovers about his family, his father, his school, and more. He receives a footlocker of his father’s from his grandmother on his birthday that helps fuel his search for answers, and many of those answers disturb those in Evan’s circle. They don’t want the past disturbed, or they don’t know how to deal with it as more and more secrets come to light.
Evan isn’t alone in his drama. His best friend Alexis has her own drama that is alluded to throughout the book, sexual abuse by her step-father. What happened, why, and more is never explained. It’s simply used as a point of reference throughout the book. Delving fully into it would probably have taken away from The Namesake itself, but I was left at the end of the book feeling like something was missing. Perhaps the story of Alexis will be Steven Parlato’s next work.
This is a Young Adult novel, but the topics are heavy and deep, much more so than many I read in high school. I would not want my children reading this before they were in their late teens. It is a heavy book and somewhat depressing, as well-written as much of it is.
Michelle is happy to report that she had nowhere near the level of drama in her life when she was in high school as Evan Galloway does. Today her life is fun and filled with drama, but of a much more fun kind. See what she’s up to on her blog Honest & Truly! or via Twitter where you can find her as @HonestAndTruly.
In the interest of full disclosure, Michelle received a copy of “The Namesake” for review purposes. There was no other compensation, and all opinions remain her own.