Collecting Sins

Steven Sobel, Author
Steven Sobel, Author Santa Monica Press $13 (279p) ISBN 978-1-891661-04-4
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The grown-up world of sex and drugs in Southern California during the late 1960s is explored by 15-year-old Ben, an affable but often clueless kid who narrates Sobel's labored first novel. As the story begins, Ben and his friend Graham are in the labyrinthine underground sewers so that Graham, a newly converted Catholic, will have something to confess. When they discover the comatose body of a woman who's pierced in provocative places, Graham and Ben flee the scene. Two chapters and one day later, after a harrowing dinnertime episode with his dysfunctional family, Ben goes to the police. When the cops fail to locate the woman, Ben returns to the sewers with his hippie friend Jackson. Miraculously, they find her, still alive; even more amazing, the revived Vickie offers the boys a night of sex as reward. Slow-moving action, inconsistent characterization and repetitive attempts at sexual adventure typify the narrative, with Ben learning about drugs from Jackson and about sex from Connie, the ""girl-next-door"" dying of cancer. He manages to partake of plenty of kinky action, some of it hilarious adolescent slapstick and some more than just a little creepy. Ben gets Connie and another girl pregnant, while Graham falls in love with Connie; Jackson is drafted; and the turmoil of the late '60s is in full swing. In the end, Ben is left with hope for happiness despite all he has learned about sinning. His story is a plain-spoken, libidinous monologue charting one boy's self-absorbed moral limbo as he tries to grow up in a tumultuous time. (Mar.)
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