Tonawanda News

Features

August 18, 2013

BOOK NOOK: A story about polluted places and polluted lives

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — The author has a remarkable grasp of male teenage angst, anger that comes not only from particular situations but from simply being somewhere between a boy and a man. It’s the forces beyond his control that can make a kid seethe, and this book offers plenty.

Similarly, the author imbues dead-end situations with action. A creek in which the protagonists swim is littered with small animals with birth defects. Disappointments in the life of the main character include a flash in his mind of birds falling from the sky. You can’t soar with eagles if chemicals corrode everything around you, including shoes, lives and souls. 

It’s all bitterness and coping, until the final scene explodes, literally. While not unexpected, the ending offers catharsis for the heroes and the residents of this town full of losers. Out here we know the feeling; the factory that poisons us also employs us. Victims as beneficiaries and vice versa. Everything alive is dying.

The book will likely awaken, or reinforce, the spirit of environmentalism in its readers, if that sort of thing is required. The desperate characters, who swim in less-than-blue water and observe the atrocities of the chemical industry because it’s all around them, are no less aware than kids who think saving the earth merely involves putting recyclable paper into blue boxes.

In vogue these days are tales of coping in end-of-days scenarios, living in worlds laid waste by callousness and chemicals. This book fits in nicely, and has all the required brutalism mixed with the expected tropes of growing up. Even poisoned guys care about bicycles, potential girlfriends and fitting in.

“My Chemical Mountain” offers something of that punch-in-the-gut ethos of hard-boiled detectives, transferred to blue-collar youth living in a cauldron of pollution. It is, needless to say, a cautionary tale, with which some of us, here, have some experience

• WHAT: "My Chemical Mountain" • BY: Corina Vacco • GRADE: A

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident and can be contacted at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

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