cover image Rats Saw God

Rats Saw God

Rob Thomas. Simon & Schuster, $17 (219pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80207-2

In his first novel Thomas lays bare the pain, awkwardness and humor at the heart of one teenager's search for identity. Steve York has always lived in the long shadow cast by his too-perfect astronaut father. When his parents divorce just before he begins high school, Steve blames his father for the family's break-up, even though he doesn't know all the facts. Life with ""the astronaut"" (as Steve insists on calling him) is okay for a while as Steve juggles straight-As with a part-time job and hangs out with a wise-cracking crew of artsy, nonconformist cronies, one of whom, Dub, becomes his first love. But Dub's eventual betrayal causes Steve to flee his father's home and take a dive from scholar to stoner. His last chance for academic redemption lies in writing a 100-page paper for his new guidance counselor, a narrative that becomes the framework for this novel. Thomas, a former high school teacher, nails his setting with dead-on accuracy. The sharp descriptions of cliques, clubs and annoying authority figures will strike a familiar chord. The dialogue is fresh and Steve's intelligent banter and introspective musings never sound wiser than his years. Readers will likely enjoy the quick pace of Steve's journal-style flashbacks; on a deeper level, they will be moved by his emotional stumbles and impressed by his growing maturity. Ages 12-up. (June)