Citrus County

Toby took his tacos outside and crouched on a curb.

“This book makes you laugh even as it breaks you heart”, one blurb on the back says. I disagree. There was no laughter, only frustration and discomfort. I was already put off by the text on the back, but the title and cover still pulled me in. Sometimes that turns out right, sometimes it turns out like this: you struggle to get to the ending of the book.

There are three main characters: the teenagers Toby and Shelby, and their teacher: Mister Hibma. With the teenagers it’s a bit easier to accept their “No-one Understands Me, I Am Alone In This World” perspective, but mister Hibma gets very little sympathy points for the same attitude. Of course, there is no age limit to feeling lost and without direction, but it’s all so ..whiny.

Toby has no family besides his uncle. Shelby tries to break through his shell, so he kidnaps her little sister to make her feel as vulnerable to the world as he does. Shelby tries to get her aunt in Iceland to invite her, so she can leave Citrus County behind. Hibma doesn’t want to be a teacher, doesn’t want to star in his own life and thinks that killing a colleague might give him the feeling of being someone, fitting somewhere.

I at the same time wanted to save these characters and run away from them. They can’t get away from the swampy, choking atmosphere of Citrus County and its people and it’s effecting all of them. Maybe this book should be viewed as stories on how you really not want your life to be(come).

Citrus County, John Brandon, McSweeney’s Rectangulars 2010

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