book review: 33 snowfish

It’s been a long time since I read a piece of fiction that made me cry. I can actually only remember one—an Evelyn Waugh short story.

Now we are at two.

33 Snowfish, by Adam Rapp, was recommended to my by the lovely Libba Bray. I had met her at SCBWI New York, and I had said something vague about how I didn’t know if what I was writing was really YA, since even though the characters were the right age it seemed really dark, and she said that you could be a lot darker in YA nowadays, for instance had I read the brilliant 33 Snowfish?

So I read it.

And it was brilliant.

And I cried.

33 Snowfish is the heartbreaking yet hopeful story of three runaways, Custis, Boobie, and Curl. Alternating sections are told by each one (Boobie’s are told in picture form). It’s a dark story. These kids have not had happy lives. One was basically a sex-slave to a pedophile, one is a prostitute, and one killed his parents—all this is what they’re running from, with a kidnapped baby.

But it’s so beautiful. Rapp’s language is vivid and intense, and all the characters are so real. He is not quite as good at Curl’s (the girl’s) voice as he is at Custis’s, I don’t think, but they are all real people. You very quickly understand them and where they’re coming from, even though for most readers it is as if the children live in a foreign land. The strong relationship between young Custis and the older boy, Boobie, is especially well-drawn.

The book is so short and wonderful that to say much about it would be doing it and the reader an injustice. But if you are interested in beautiful YA literature, you should pick this up. Just know that it’s dark.

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