Review - 33 snowfish - Adam Rapp

The Blurb: On the run in a stolen car with a kidnapped baby in tow, three kids with deeply troubled pasts and bleak futures struggle to find a place for themselves. They will never be able to leave the past behind. Yet for one, redemption is waiting in the unlikeliest of places.

With the raw language of the street and lyrical, stream-of-consciousness prose, Adam Rapp hurtles the reader into a world of lost children, a world that is not for the faint of heart. Gripping, disturbing, and starkly illuminating, his hypnotic narration captures the voices of two damaged souls - a third speaks only through drawings - to tell a story of alienation, deprivation, and ultimately, the saving power of compassion.

Opening Line: "On top of everything else, Boobie's got the clap."

The Review: “33 snowfish” is at the literary pinnacle of YA fiction. This is a novel that really takes to task some of our expectations about humanity. Physical and sexual violence are part of the lives of these characters, and it is told with brutal honesty and without a hint of sentimentality. He just tells it like it is for the characters he has created: A patricidal arsonist (age 17), a drug addicted prostitute (age 14), and an emotionally damaged former kidnap victim (age 10).

Rapp’s poetic (and often visceral) writing is peppered across every beautiful page and adds so much depth and lyricism to the text that one can get lost in a poetic turn of phrase and almost forget the horrible acts these characters are suffering through and participating in.

I have had a few days to think about this book, and I am still in awe. Rapp understands how to weave realism and lyricism together in a way that is unprecedented. I am saddened that this book has not received more acclaim, it deserves it. One can only assume that because of its violent content and risqué subject matter, it was quietly passed over as a contender for the major awards. This book appealed to me as a writer, and also as a reader.

Something Extra: Adam Rapp and Chris Lynch were interviewed in ALAN magazine by Ann Angel. They discuss violence in YA literature, and the importance of realism in YA fiction.

The Bottom Line: This is one of the best examples of what literary YA fiction CAN be. One of those books where you read it and just think, “Gosh, if only I could write like that…”.

Grade: A+