cover image How You Ruined My Life

How You Ruined My Life

Jeff Strand. Sourcebooks Fire, $10.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-6202-0

In this self-aware comedy, a teen’s life is thrown into disarray by the arrival of his manipulative cousin. Sixteen-year-old Rod is the lead singer of an almost-successful punk band, and he has a hot girlfriend, so he thinks everything’s fine. But when his buttoned-up, hyper-privileged cousin, Blake, comes to stay for several months, the two are instantly at odds. Blake seems hell-bent on sabotaging every aspect of Rod’s comfortable existence, but Rod can’t persuade anyone else of Blake’s nefarious intentions: is he succumbing to paranoia or is something else going on? Rod’s easily distracted inner voice and quasi-unreliability as narrator—he’s prone to exaggerations and digressions—cause the plot to meander toward its climax. Looked at one way, this is a textbook example of gaslighting and psychological warfare; looked at another way, it’s a comic war of wills between two teenagers pushing each other to the breaking point. Strand (Stranger Things Have Happened) has a keen ear for dialogue and character interaction, but the ending fizzles after all the buildup of tension between the cousins. Ages 12–up. [em](Apr.) [/em]