cover image Terre Haute

Terre Haute

Will Aitken. Delta, $19 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-385-29872-8

Set in the Indiana city of its title in the early 1960s, this debut novel attempts to explore the implications of the narrator's burgeoning homosexuality. Fourteen-year-old Jared McCaverty both profits and suffers from precocity; he sees the emptiness of the world of his privileged, materialistic parents, yet craves their approval. Aitken's breezy, frenetic tone lends the narrative buoyancy and keeps melodrama to a minimum. However, for all the accuracy of Jared's voice--Aitken divides the book into monthly, first-person journal-like sections--the author fails to distinguish Jared and to make him sympathetic. Aitken only skims the surface; Jared's problems are more interesting than he is. His sexual relationships--one with a classmate, the other with a 36-year-old man--are realistically and sensitively portrayed, but their consequences are not fully probed: Jared doesn't undergo convincing change. (Nov.)