The Flamer\t

Ben Rogers, Author
Ben Rogers. Aqueous (www.aqueousbooks.com), $14 (260p) ISBN 978-0984739936
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 02/01/2012
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In his debut novel, Ben Rogers tells the coming of age story of 13-year-old preppy pyromaniac Oby Brooks, who lives in a quiet, middle class neighborhood of Reno, Nevada. After learning in a gifted class about the tradition of folding cranes for the victims of the atomic bombs, young Oby states in a fit of wildly dramatic teenage angst, "I would have folded cranes until my cuticles were a bloody lattice if it meant for once I could just be noticed, just go off, and, at the same time obliterate all evidence of my ever existing. I wanted to shake the fucking globe." Though the plot is set up to be explosive, after accidentally burning down part of his bedroom with unstable sodium, Oby recounts his somewhat unremarkable journey to adulthood, complete with an internship at a rock quarry and one kiss with a boy—perhaps not enough to warrant the overt double entendre in the title. Because of his interior nature, Oby is less interesting than the quirkier and livelier secondary characters such as his "Mountain Man" chemistry professor Mr. Weisgard and Teri, the only female laborer at the quarry. Oby's interactions with Teri, whose life is fraught with real drama and emotion, add a level of poignancy to a novel otherwise trapped in the shallow monomania of a teenager: "It wasn't that I wanted to kill anybody, or that I was blind to human suffering. I was suffering. I was thirteen." (Feb.)
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