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An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.
For a runaway boy who goes by the name “Punkzilla,” kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a backdrop of seedy motels, dicey bus stations, and hitched rides, the desperate fourteen-year-old meets a colorful, sometimes dangerous cast of characters. And in letters to his sibling, he catalogs them all—from an abusive stranger and a ghostly girl to a kind transsexual and an old woman with an oozing eye. The language is raw and revealing, crackling with visceral details and dark humor, yet with each interstate exit Punkzilla’s journey grows more urgent: will he make it to Tennessee in time? This daring novel offers a narrative worthy of Kerouac and a keen insight into the power of chance encounters.
Steve Nugent is in a facility called Burnstone Grove. It’s a place for kids who are addicts, like Shannon Lynch, who can stick $1.87 in change up his nose, or for kids who have tried to commit suicide, like Silent Starla, whom Steve is getting a crush on. But Steve doesn’t really fit in either group. He used to go to a gifted school. So why is he being held at Burnstone Grove? Keeping a journal, in which he recalls his confused and violent past, Steve is left to figure out who he is by examining who he was.