Painful perplexity, bitter revelation, agonizing growth—if it has all this, it must be a story of young adulthood. That bitter, painful agony is presented with a scathing edge in Vancouver playwright Dennis Foon’s novel Skud (Groundwood, 170 pages, $18.95, ages 13+), a tale that maps the interior lives of four deluded young men at the very moment of their disillusionment.
First Tommy speaks- he who barely keeps his rage in check as he makes all the right, obsequious moves to prepare for a future as a fighter pilot. Then we hear Brad, a killer machine on the ice, big league hopeful, thanks to the bullying (or do we call it coaching?) of his father. He pops steroids, but within reason, he insists. His complex philosophy is contained in one phrase: “No zits. No tits. No pain. No gain.”
Andy the actor then speaks. He’s doing vocalization exercises to prepare for the great break, a role in an action movie. Finally we hear, in tiny bursts, the sad, listless voice of one who has made it to the top: Shane, a major player in a terrorist gang.
Taut with the promise of violence, seething with unexploded rage, these alternating monologues explore the emotional sites of male rage and aggression, stripping back the glitz of performance violence to show the destructive passions that make it possible. Foon’s abbreviated style, his inventive, visceral slang (the words “skud,” “skrunk,” “MG” make auditory what is felt) provide a terse energy akin to poetry. The edgy, stylized drawing of the book jacket conveys perfectly what Foon has accomplished here: a suspenseful, concentrated fable that pushes readers to confront the seductive, misogynistic violence of male entertainment. Gripping and thought- provoking, excellent fare for adolescent boys.
– Dierdre Baker, Toronto Star
When seniors Brad and Tommy suspect Andy of stealing Tommy’s girlfriend, they decide to make him pay by beating him up and humiliating him. Unfortunately for them, Shane, a notorious gang member, shows up and claims to be Andy’s backup. This unlikely pair forms a tenuous friendship when Shane agrees to help Andy “punk up” for an acting part. Brad runs into subsequent trouble on the hockey team and Tommy, an honor student and school hero, is arrested for raping his former girlfriend. Foon has created this novel from a play he wrote in 1994 by expanding each character’s part and alternating chapters among the teens. Readers will respond to the brutality and intensity felt throughout these story threads, and the bully theme rings loud and clear with anyone who has set foot in a high school. The book’s small trim size and eye-catching cover should make it an easy sell to reluctant readers.
– Lynn Evarts, School Library Journal