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I’m guessing that when you write a young adult novel that the one thing you have to get right is that your reader can easily access the narrative, and then again some writers don’t seem to agree.
The War Against the Assholes (2016. 261 pages) by Sam Munson, throws us into the life of seventeen year old Mike Wood, with all his collective testosterone and poor insight into the world. Munson does a good job at creating Mike, probably a little too good, as he is not particularly as likable character as he should be to get our empathy. He attends the local catholic school and in most ways is just a normal kid.
On a particular night, when he takes revenge against a local bully, he is approached by another kid, Hob, who gives him a book, The Calendar of Sleights, which, on the face of it is a book on card tricks, but the little green book has other purposes.
Having mastered a few of the less difficult tricks, Hob takes him to meet Charthouse and Alabama who feed him drink, question him for hours and finally make him jump off the top of a building. The fact that he fails to fall to his death introduces him to a world of magic, a world at war.
There was much to like about the book, but why Munson decided to present it in its particular form is beyond me. Imagine the last four paragraphs just run together and it will give you an idea just how dense the text is.
This creates a problem of differentiating between the various characters. To get around this there is an inordinate amount of "he said", "she said" needed to be injected into the text just to make some room between statements from different characters. Overall, it makes the text hard to read and incredibly easy to get lost, with its short sentences and long paragraphs, making the book feels like an experiment in completely the wrong genre.
Get past the presentation and Munson offers up a nice combination of New York Noir and a centuries long rivalry between separate groups of mages, which draws Mike into its centre as he changes into a kid who can no longer deal with the mediocracy in his life in a magic/true clime mash-up of a storyline.