Merit Badges

Kevin Fenton, New Issues (SPD, dist.), $26 (233p) ISBN 978-1-930974-95-1
An impressive vitality, droll wit, and affecting nostalgia lift Fenton's first novel about four high school pals growing up together during the 1970s in the fictional town of Minnisapa, Minn.: Chimes Sanborn, ex–Boy Scout and ace bowler; Quint King, a "stoner" who tries to prove he can "letter in recreational drug use"; Barb Carimona, a sensitive music lover, who discovers their town was named after "a blot of ink" by an Indian "making a joke at the stupid white guy's expense"; and Slow Slocum, a jock from a dysfunctional family. Fenton tracks their lives up through their first postgraduate decade, which doesn't always turn out as they planned or hoped. Perhaps the gloomiest outcome is Barb's aborted stays in New York City and Chicago before her return home to work as a convenience store cashier. In a sweet romantic interlude, Slow proposes to his girlfriend while sitting atop a Ferris wheel. Eminently readable prose makes it easy to forgive an inconclusive ending. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Paperback - 233 pages - 978-1-936970-03-2
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