cover image Men, Women & Children

Men, Women & Children

Chad Kultgen. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-165731-3

After two novels of puerile juvenilia, Kultgen (The Average American Male) expands his horizons a little in this sometimes thoughtful account of a group of junior high classmates and their screwed-up parents. Among the sprawling cast is the Truby family: parents stuck in a sexless dead-end marriage while son Chris drifts deeper into dependence on strange porn. Then there's Chris's classmate, Tim Mooney, who quits the football team to devote more time to video games, and Hannah Clint, a classmate and aspiring actress whose r%C3%A9sum%C3%A9 Web site begins drawing a pedophile fan base, to her mother's misguided enthusiasm ("there might be an opportunity to turn the web site into a business," she reasons). Kultgen is an artless writer%E2%80%94the prose reads like an instruction manual, and his characters are little more than the sum of their perversions%E2%80%94but he does manage to pose questions about the things men will never admit to thinking, and about the dark side of the Internet and its effects on interpersonal relationships; it's too bad they're coated in salacious narrative slop. (July)