Tonawanda News

Features

August 18, 2013

BOOK NOOK: A story about polluted places and polluted lives

Tonawanda News — The backstory of Corina Vacco’s “My Chemical Mountain” includes inspiration to write a dystopian novel about life amid a toxic cesspool of environmental pollution during her short residence in Western New York, and it may be true. Another (non-fiction) book, by a different author, memorably mentions a visitor to Niagara Falls who was unimpressed with the waterfall but dazzled by the breadth of our landfills.

In Vacco’s book it’s a dead-end life for three young teenage boys in the suburban Buffalo town of Poxton (and the last syllable of that community makes me think she’s hitting close to home), swimming in, and inhaling, chemicals all day and living as risk-taking, disaffected youth who understand their environs are killing them. 

The scenes, the attitudes, the desperation are brilliantly rendered. This book packs one wallop after another; even the moody, introspective parts have action and attitude to them. It is aimed at what the publishing business calls young adults; it means middle and high school boys, and those in that category who want an adventure story with easy-to-identify-with swagger will enjoy it.

Indeed, references to the Buffalo area occur, but only occasionally. There’s the 990 and Sabres merchandise and a few other things, but mostly it’s about three friends, of different temperament and problems, in a no-way-out community and a rapacious chemical corporation, the only employer in town, destroying the place.

Desperation permeates the lives of Poxton’s residents, except for the three protagonists. Bitterness and revenge permeate theirs.

And oh, does the plot gallop, the way a book for short attention types must. It took this reader one sitting, time a little longer than a Hollywood movie, to enthusiastically blast through it. It can be read as an adventure story with a resolution likely to satisfy its intended audience, and the three characters at the heart of the book are adequately different so any reader can identify with at least one.

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