Lawn Boy

320p. Algonquin. Apr. 2018. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781616202620.
Eminently readable and deeply thought-provoking, Evison's deceptively simple novel takes on tough issues such as race, sexual identity, and the crushing weight of American capitalism. Mike Muñoz, the 22-year-old biracial (Mexican and white) narrator, has grown up dirt-poor with his hardworking waiter mother and his brother, who is developmentally disabled. The narrative follows Mike's attempts at several other jobs after he's fired from his lawn-mowing gig while he works on his love life and tries to help out his family. After Mike recounts a great disappointment involving his biological father in the first chapter, one of several themes emerges as Mike encounters several potential father figures (often bosses), each with his own deeply flawed philosophy of life. From the cutthroat capitalism of his first boss to the upper-class cronyism of an old high school pal, each man personifies aspects of Mike's life that he cannot stand, even while he learns valuable lessons from them. Meanwhile, other story lines fix on Mike's underdeveloped understanding of his sexuality, which is not helped by the rampant homophobia and sexism of his best friend, and his equally conflicted understanding of his ethnic identity. Unfortunately, Evison's often infective enthusiasm for his preponderance of ideas weighs down the demands of the plot. Nevertheless, the passion with which Mike and Evison share these ideas redeems the novel.
VERDICT Give this flawed but exciting coming-of-age story to teens eager to engage with heavy and timely political issues.

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