Book Review: The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

The Tragic Age
Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Released: March 3, 2015
Review Source: St. Martin's Griffin

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

  Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at. The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe's brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.

I'm glad that I read this novel shortly after reading How to Win at High School (You can check out my review of that one here). Both had a male as the main character, and even though I'm not usually a fan of male main characters, I really enjoyed them both. Who knows...I might start requesting more books like this one!

First, I LOVED the snarky writing in this one. I'm all for main characters where you feel like you are them, and not that you are looking down on a movie set. I instantly felt like I was Billy. I had an instant connection with his pessimistic viewpoint of the world and his snarky personality. I've been reading so many contemporary romance novels lately, that this was a breath of fresh air.

Billy is a kid after my own heart and it killed me to see him doing things he shouldn't. I grieved with him over the loss of his sister and could see the sense of longing in his heart as he tries to fit in despite a deformity on his face. His group of misfits remind me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. They need each other, but they don't need each other. Together they don't feel so lonely, but they end up doing so many things they shouldn't. This novel also reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye in that the main character's are both male and learn about life doing things that are a little above their age level. Ephraim was probably my favorite character of all. He reminds me so much af several kids I went to high school with. Totally addicted to games and totally has lost touch with reality. He's just so happy to have people to hang out with that it breaks your heart.

The ending was a little confusing and I had to go back and read through it a few times. Billy has a way of playing things out in his head, coming up with different scenarios, and I couldn't figure out if this was in his head or actually happening. I knew that the ending couldn't be prefect, but I was shocked with how it all went down. I don't want to say anymore about the ending because I'm afraid I'll give something away, but it was surprising.

Overall, I was very happy with this novel and I hope that Metcalfe writes another one. I would recommend this to older teens because it has a lot of sex and violence in it.

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