War Boy

Kief Hillsbery, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-688-17141-4
Oregon native Hillsbery invests his insider knowledge of West Coast subcultures in his energetic debut novel. His narrator, Radboy, is a 14-year-old deaf skateboarder with serious family trouble: his father murdered his mother, got away with it and now wants to do away with his son. Radboy is rescued by his superskater friend, Jonnyboy, who's a decade older, and who inflicts maximum punishment on Radboy's dad. Soon the two escape hometown Monterey and are off to San Francisco. Radboy knows Jonnyboy is ""kweer"" but doesn't know whether that makes him nervous or jealous, especially when Jonnyboy takes up with a singer named Rourke. The ""boyz"" also befriend Ula, an eco-radical Swedish nurse, whose sister has been hurt in a bomb attack. Irish skinhead Finn and his lover, Critter, are both crackheads, but they offer their pad for Radboy and Jonnyboy to crash in. Even though Jonnyboy disappears with Rourke, Radboy knows the drug den is better than going into a foster or a boy's home. Radboy comes off cool with his hyper, quickly jotted vernacular: ""kewl with a k,"" he likes to say on paper to his fast friends. But he acts tougher than the smart but vulnerable child he is. Eventually, the young hero and his crew embark on an ambitious scheme to bomb an anti-environment corporation. It turns out, however, that crackheads don't make the most effective political terrorists. The""Nocal"" post-punk atmosphere, which embraces anarchist violence, Green politics, ""grrl power"" and hard-core drugs as blithely as it worships ""underground"" heroes Kurt Cobain and Lou Reed, can be grating with its forced edginess, but against the novel's hard-core heart stands Radboy's decency and will to survive. 5-city author tour. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-093501-6
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-330-39272-3
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