I like to read several books at the same time. One at work, one or two at home, and a different selection while traveling. The last selection is usually from Kindle Unlimited in the form of a short story. I can finish two or three of them in an Indonesian traffic jam. With this novel, I was unable to switch between reads. I was completely caught up in the story. After finishing it, I went to an author profile page; I will be reading lots more from Chuck Wendig.
Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
Reviewing this is difficult. There are so many themes that almost any detail might serve as a spoiler. Atlanta is a feisty teenager who takes no guff from anyone about anything. This includes the abuse from her mother’s boyfriend. In language from the novel, she separates the boyfriend from his man parts. Although deemed a justifiable action, Atlanta still must complete some government mandated counselling. Returning home after a several month spell of absence from her home and school, Atlanta faces ostracism by former friends and a breakdown of her relationship with mom, who she blames for having lousy boyfriends.
Socially isolated herself, she pays more attention to others around her who are being oppressed. This includes almost everyone who is non-white, but includes Jews. In words of some characters who do not appreciate, she makes their problems her problems. When Atlanta sees unfairness, she wants and seeks revenge more than someone else’s idea of justice. This makes for a novel filled with all kinds of violence.
Readers interested in the following themes will find this book riveting: survivors of child molestation, animal rights (dogfighting), parent/child dysfunction, teenage suicide (suspected), school bullying, police corruption, and racism in many, many different forms. Atlanta faces these challenges with Machiavellian tactics of pitting enemies against each other, but finds a .410 shotgun useful as well. And there is a huge dog.
Wendig has his characters use a very up-to-date vernacular. I used an internet slang dictionary on several occasions. I had to google a few phrases. I did not know what a cinnamon challenge was. While Atlanta is not stupid, she has a few nerd friends who use language unfamiliar to her. They were unfamiliar to me also; back to google. This made it fun for me, but the cultural references would make the novel too difficult for my English as a second language students, at least without my help.
I have not figured out how a novel with so much violence and so many sexual references is not offensive porn. So I will help my students if they choose this for a semester read project. The content will definitely capture their attention and the social issues raised will spark a lot of discussion.
And, just a few examples of intriguing language use:
When discussing a game of Dungeons and Dragons, “If ever there was a perfume that exuded the scent of weakness, it would be a fragrance that stank of multicolored polyhedral dice and fermented gamer sweat.” (p.76)
Of her mother’s weeping Atlanta says “Her mother will be making a nest out of ruined Kleenex, hatching little pity eggs like the saddest bird on the block.” (p.142)
Atlanta talking of her dog “Who, Whitey? He’s all right. Stinks up a room pretty bad, though. His butt smells like a bunch of squirrels climbed in an old jockstrap and died. Maybe it’s the frozen pizzas I’ve been feeding him.” (p.258)