cover image Citrus County

Citrus County

John Brandon, McSweeney's, $22 (215p) ISBN 978-1-934781-53-1

Brandon (Arkansas) finds shards of redemption in the swampy backwaters of Florida in his funny and horrifying latest. When Shelby Register moves to Citrus County, Fla., with her single father and little sister, she's expecting "surfers instead of rednecks," but the precocious teen makes the best of it. Things get screwy when Toby, a neglected, loveless boy living with his abusive uncle, becomes her twisted love interest. Toby finds trouble far more elaborate than ordinary delinquency when he enacts a strange, cruel plot on the Register clan. Presiding over it all in his own confused state is Mr. Hibma, a young teacher draped in irony and disaffection who lectures on the evils of capitalism, avoids his colleagues, and wants to do good but isn't sure how. As the Register family's misery deepens, Shelby begins to test boundaries, Toby realizes that he can't reverse the effects of his "prank," and his and Shelby's braided fates hurtle toward either tragedy or a narrow miss. Brandon's dry wit, dark imagination, and surprisingly big heart combine to reveal a Florida that, despite (or because of) being more Ted Bundy than Disney World, is absolutely worth visiting. (July)