Johnny Temple on Phil LaMarche's American Youth
by Phil Lamarche
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The boy protagonist in Phil LaMarche's roiling debut novel, American Youth, is tough and lonely in the manner of Russell Banks's lost-kid hero in Rule of the Bone. Ted LeClare's detachment from his peers is set against the backdrop of his family's—and the region's—economic dislocation, and LaMarche renders the culturally barren New England landscape with language that is both portentous and propulsive.
Ted's first days of high school are upended by his role in the tragic death of a friend. Emotionally reclusive even before the accident, the boy begins a downward spiral that is interrupted only by an invitation to join a group of kids who call themselves the American Youth. He is drawn to the promise of companionship and quickly seduced by the group's purist identity, fostered by their charismatic leader, George.
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