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Angry Young Man

Review

Angry Young Man

"I want you to understand my brother. I don't need you to, so don't get all worked up over it or anything. Ultimately you can do what you like. But I would like for you to understand him. As far as that goes, I'd like to understand him myself."

With these lines, we are introduced to Robert and his younger brother, Xan. Robert is a well-esteemed athlete enrolled in community college, and Xan is an intense and very socially awkward young man who is also a teen dropout. There are two basic things to appreciate about this ordinary family: These brothers are nothing alike, and while Xan is floundering professionally and emotionally, Robert will always be there to remind him of it. Robert freely admits that habitually tormenting Xan is like a drug, an integral part of his own self-perception. Odd, soft-hearted Xan has learned to cope with it and hide his feelings from everyone. But brotherhood runs deep enough that Robert is also Xan's one true friend, one of the few people who consistently tolerates him. The question is: Do they understand each other or empathize --- even to the smallest degree --- with the other's perspective?

A conversation between the brothers goes something like this:

"Why the tints?"

Because I am me and he is him, surrender is inevitable.

"They're for privacy."

"What kind of privacy?"

"I'm shading out my windows. You know? The eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, I am tired of people staring in, trying to see my soul. People look in and think they know you, think they have you. They steal pieces of you that way. So, I'm blocking out access to my soul windows."

Trudging alongside with tints obscuring his soul, Xan seems basically happy in his family trio but feels all too keenly that everyone is at odds. Robert is successful and self-satisfied, while Xan reluctantly takes up the rear on every front. Their single mom, "Ma", doesn't believe there is such a thing as being a "bad" or "wrong" son. Ma distracts herself with work while stressing over major debts. Robert busies himself playing competitive soccer as he studies to be an athletic coach at the local college, spending any time he has left with his brother or girlfriend Babette.

Meanwhile, Xan has been attempting (unsuccessfully) to find any work he can, a difficult project considering he hasn't earned his GED. Though opportunities arise for activities that would provide even more beneficial direction, any chances are thwarted by either his strange nature or his big brother overshadowing him --- much like he has always done.

Beginning with good humor and a tone of twisted charm, the story quickly evolves into a more sinister and fatalistic tale once Xan turns off the beaten path and becomes hyper-involved with a radical animal rights group. At the center of Xan's motivation to "make a difference" are his feelings and personal perceptions about being mistreated and a tendency toward oversensitivity. Robert, caring and conceited as he is, usually has enough influence to sway Xan. But this time is different; there is no turning away from disaster. What follows is Robert's perspective on events that unfold rapidly and surprisingly, becoming a sweeping life story with messages about the power of injustice and the importance of perspective.

ANGRY YOUNG MAN is one of this year's best YA books, and I would venture a guess that Chris Lynch just might find himself nominated for awards yet again.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on February 8, 2011

Angry Young Man
by Chris Lynch

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1442454199
  • ISBN-13: 9781442454194