Ignore the fact that others have already mentioned this, and let me be the first to compare Adam Rapp’s novel UNDER THE WOLF, UNDER THE DOG to J.D. Salinger’s CATCHER IN THE RYE. Of course, their characters Steve Nugent and Holden Caulfield are different, but they’re alike in the way HoHo’s know they’re related to Ding Dongs.
Critics have called Steve names like “marginalized” and “outcast,” but if that’s Steve, then that’s Holden as well. Which it’s not. I’d like to see those critics try to deal with the death of their mother, finally watching cancer finish its job in her upstairs bedroom. I want to see them overcome a group of delinquent friends trying to deal drugs and rob the Piggly Wiggly market. I want to see them discover their brother hanging by a necktie down in the basement. How would they handle it and would that make them “marginalized”?
Here’s the thing –– Steve is just a Gray Grouper at Burnstone Grove filling his journal with the past to hopefully make sense of the present. He’s in love with Silent Starla, a Blue Grouper who isn’t silent like everyone says. He’s just a sixteen year old trying to recover from a life where “you have to deal with stuff on your own and that’s all there is to it.” It’s this search that leads him to contemplate the universe and drugs, religion and the purpose of life, and “that particular part of the morning ‘between the wolf and the dog’ when the sky is so deep blue and spooky or whatever that you can’t tell what’s what.”
That’s where Steve is. It’s the reason he’s at Burnstone Grove instead of the Gifted School he ran away from. And it’s the reason the unique voice in his mind will howl in your brain, bringing you to laughter, and God help you, tears.
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