Downers Grove

Michael Hornburg, Author William Morrow & Company $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-688-16528-4
Disquieting in its timeliness, Hornburg's (Bongwater) second novel is a tale of violence among high school cliques and a gritty portrait of adolescent pluck amid morbid chaos. Narrator Crystal Methedrine Swanson is on the verge of graduating from Downers Grove High in Illinois. Chrissie, as her friends call her, has a lot to deal with on the home front: her father has left without a trace, her brother is addicted to heroin and her mother is dating an increasingly sinister new beau. Chrissie and her boy-crazy, sexpot best friend, Tracy, also worry about ""the curse"" of their high school: each year before graduation, somebody in the senior class dies in a bizarre way. One year a math whiz killed several people in the parking lot before turning the shotgun on himself; other graduations were marred by suicide, drowning and several drunk-driving accidents. After Chrissie beats up a jock who tried to rape her at a party, she becomes terrified that she will be the next statistic. The jock and his buddies pursue an escalating plot of revenge beginning with a vicious car chase. They also set fire to Chrissie's school locker and strew dead dogs on her lawn. Adding to the plot twists of this teenybopper drama is Chrissie's obsession with a 26-year-old mechanic--cum-race-car driver named Bobby. Tough, insensitive and super-cool, Bobby is the kind of character only a teenage girl could love. Hornburg's prose is rife with adolescent jokes and lingo, some of it hilarious and sharp. At other times the humor wears thin, especially because Chrissie's youthful wisecracking does not segue smoothly into passages of soul-searching introspection. Yet Chrissie's relentlessly vernacular teenage voice takes up residence in the reader's mind, establishing her vulnerability and demonstrating the courage she shows on her stressful road to maturity. Photos. (Aug.) FYI: Hornburg is managing editor of Grove/Atlantic.
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8021-3793-7
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-36949-7
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