In Craig Dirkes' debut novel Sucktown, Alaska, the author uses personal experience to craft a fictional YA story about Eddie, an 18-year-old college flunk-out who moves to a small town in Alaska to gain experience that will prove he is serious about being a student. He gets a job writing for the local newspaper. He makes a new friend. He develops a crush on a girl. He starts selling weed.
Yup. Selling weed is a huge part of this story and, eventually, it is supposed to serve as Eddie's wake-up call and point of redemption, but for me it didn't really work.
Part of that is because I didn't find Eddie to be a likable guy. He's pretty full of himself, as I suppose most 18-year-olds are, and the way he talks is rather coarse. When he meets Taylor, the girl he has a crush on, he's taken by her boobs. And then we continue to hear him mention her boobs and her butt and all of that throughout the rest of the book. I get it. She's hot. (Except she has a wonky eye or something. I wasn't really sure what was supposed to be wrong with her eye. I kept thinking that it would be addressed at some point, but it never was.)
But aside from being hot, Taylor is also her high school class' valedictorian. So she's also pretty smart, something that I'm not sure Eddie fully appreciates, and if she's so smart, then why is she falling for Eddie? I guess this place is so tiny that the girls are hard-up for guys.
Aside from finding each other physically attractive, I wasn't picking up on any real chemistry between these characters. And that was also another thing that didn't work for me. Many of the B characters were drawn thin. I wished there had been a little more development.
Eddie does change toward the end, but by the time he reaches that point, I was already done with him and I didn't really care that he was finally trying to make things right.
This book is age-rated 14+, and I find it really hard to think that a 14-year-old might be reading this book. There was a lot of specific marijuana lingo happening in the book, and I didn't understand any of it, so I really hope that 14-year-olds don't understand it either.
I almost think that if the story had gone darker and deeper, it could have been an interesting general fiction book for adults.
I think if anyone is going to read this book, it should be kids who are at least 18. It could make a nice high school graduation present and serve as a cautionary tale to those kids to not drink their way through their first semesters of college or sell weed because bad things will happen.
Sucktown, Alaska is published by Switch Press and will be on bookstore shelves on May 1, 2017. I received a free ARC for my honest review.