Stories of teenagers trying to find their way through turbulent times have always fascinated me. It’s quite inspiring to see young people growing up, forming their personalities in times of great social upheaval.
So when I heard about TEN THOUSAND SAINTS, the gritty, emotional novel by Eleanor Henderson, about the straight-edge movement, with which I was vaguely familiar due to professional wrestler CM Punk), I knew I had to read it. I fell in love with the plot description instantly.
Meet Jude. Jude is a teen raised by parents who are very, very liberal, to say the least, in regard to using various addictive substances. Jude’s best friend, Teddy, has lost his life to a drug overdose, so this kid’s got quite a personal history with drug abuse. Which is why, in turbulent, AIDS-panicked New York in the 1980’s, Jude, together with Teddy’s former girlfriend, left pregnant, and Johnny, Teddy’s half-brother, join the straightedge movement. To the “uninitiated”, this is a punk subculture, with a strong aversion to drinking, smoking, drugs and sexual promiscuity.
The novel pulls no punches in dealing with heavy subjects: drug abuse is very common, Jude’s parents being very big into this sort of thing. Eliza’s pregnancy, given that she’s not even out of her teens, is another point of controversy. Pretty much every adult in this book, as a previous reviewer remarked, is a wreck. So, in its essence, this is a story about growing up with no suitable role models. It’s a painful, gritty, honest story, with flawed, vulnerable, and yet likable teenage protagonists trying to find their way in a wayward world. The plot twist with Johnny was something unexpected, as was the bittersweet ending(read this book!) I also had a chance to get educated on fetal alcohol syndrome, which I knew vaguely about, so there’s stuff to learn from this novel as well.
For the authenticity of the setting and the compelling nature of its characters, TEN THOUSAND SAINTS gets TEN THOUSAND stars! This book rocks, and though I received a copy from the author for review purposes, this review is entirely composed of my own views. Thank you, Ms. Henderson! Great job!