cover image No Alternative

No Alternative

William Dickerson. Kettle of Letters, $12.99 paper (329p) ISBN 978-0-9851886-1-0

Set in 1994, Dickerson's coming-of-age debut%E2%80%94which features healthy doses of alternative rock, angst, and family dysfunction%E2%80%94follows teen siblings Thomas and Bridget as they struggle to find themselves and their way in the world. Emotionally troubled Thomas has his sights set on musical fame, while Bridget%E2%80%94who is also musically inclined%E2%80%94releases her anxiety via graphic gangsta rap performances at open mike nights. Readers who lived through the 1990s will easily relate to Thomas's obsession with the grunge rock scene and Bridget's attempts to pacify her inner turmoil with a regimen of antidepressants. Both protagonists are vividly drawn, as are the book's peripheral characters, such as the teens' parents, who are damaged and struggling as well. While Dickerson's prose frequently devolves into ruminative exposition that, while intermittently informative and entertaining, causes narrative momentum to stagnate, the novel%E2%80%94with its clear-eyed glimpse into the lives of a troubled family%E2%80%94satisfies.