cover image Burn It All Down

Burn It All Down

Nicolas DiDomizio. Little, Brown, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-49695-7

DiDomizio’s breezy if exasperating debut follows an aspiring stand-up comic and his mother on their quest for vengeance against those who broke their hearts. Joey Rossi, 18, finds out his boyfriend, Luke, cheated on him, then his 34-year-old mother, Gia, gets dumped by her married boyfriend, Richard. Mother and son retaliate by vandalizing Luke’s car and trashing Richard’s house, setting a fire that accidentally burns it down. Suddenly, these “felons without a plan,” as Joey terms them, hit the road and seek refuge at a lake house owned by Gia’s ex-boyfriend Marco, in upstate New York. While Gia and Marco reconnect, Joey meets Will, a possible boyfriend. DiDomizio easily captures the strong bond between Gia and Joey, which often runs on trash talk to paper over their self-defeating behavior. And after Joey discovers a series of lies his mother told him, their co-dependency is laid bare (“Emotions aren’t something Mom and I are capable of experiencing separately. They’re always shared”). Unfortunately, some of the metaphors are lazy (“My brain crashes like an old desktop computer”), and an episode where Joey accidentally knocks down a horse-drawn wagon hanging in Will’s lake house is overwrought (“The room explodes into a cacophony of gasps and screams”). This comic novel’s characters may find catharsis, but the humor tends to wear thin for the reader. (May)