cover image String Follow

String Follow

Simon Jacobs. MCD X FSG Originals, $18 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-374-60385-4

Jacobs (Palaces) tackles the traumas of adolescence and the desperation of suburban life with this grimy, layered tale. A shadowy, sinister collective entity watches and guides the actions of a group of teens in Adena, Ohio, using the cracks in their relationships to gain purchase within their psyches: tenderhearted Sarah struggles to maintain her sense of self as she deals with manipulation and abuse; Greg grapples with psychosis that drives him toward self-destruction; David becomes obsessed with an online cornucopia of fascist propaganda and bizarre porn, and alienates himself from everybody he knows. The result might be best described as “hangout horror”—there’s no traditional plot to speak of as Jacobs dips in and out of the characters’ lives through the eyes of an invisible watcher. Instead, the narrative wallows in the small-scale routines of its characters as their lives spiral out of control and toxic cycles repeat themselves. Despite some near-Faulknerian passages zeroing in on the characters’ twisty inner lives, the meandering prose struggles to maintain momentum. Still, readers looking for a horrific take on coming of age may want to give this a try. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Feb.)