Saturday, December 15, 2007

One Good Punch by Rich Wallace

Mike is a good kid. That’s what everyone would say. He keeps out of trouble and works hard at his job writing obituaries for the local paper. It’s not the most glamorous job, but he knows it gives him real world experience as a writer that will be invaluable later on. He also knows this is his year to prove himself on the track team – he’s been training all winter and they have a good chance of going to State. So everyone is surprised when a weekend drug sweep at the school turns up 4 joints in his locker. All of a sudden Mike’s got some tough choices ahead of him and his future depends on what he decides.

The book is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania and the setting was excellently depicted. Scranton almost seemed like a character in the book – a town that is aging and slowly decaying due to lack of new industry, despite having been a wealthy, booming town in the early 1900s. Mike likes living there, but he can see how he may need to get out of town so he doesn’t end up middle aged, unemployed, and in his own words – drinking beer on his parent’s porch.

One Good Punch is filled with life’s gray areas. Do you only tell part of the truth to get yourself out of trouble? Or is loyalty more important? Should you bank everything on what you thought was your future? Or are there alternate ways of getting there? Do you take your time to figure out your own mind on a subject? Or do you do what others want of you? The first person narration was very strong even though this is a very short novel, 114 pages to be exact. It’s what I would call a quiet novel even though it has the drug bust drama – it’s much more focused on how Mike determines his life’s direction than it is a problem novel per se. There will be setbacks, but Mike and Scranton will survive in one way or another.

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