Mick Cochrane’s FITZ jars you immediately, with the titular protagonist waiting, gun in hand, to create the missing memories so many of his friends have had that he has not. Being a teenager is a hard enough transitory period spent growing up, and finding out about the adult you will be. For Fitz, it has been a harder time because he has had a hole in his life caused by his absentee father. Now, Fitz is a 15-year-old who has been following his father for more than a month, learning his routine and his quirks, all the while wondering why he hasn’t seen him. He has spent the past month coasting through his own life, but has now built up the confidence to confront his father, to find out where he has been and to make up for lost time.
"Mick Cochrane has created a deeply relatable protagonist that allows readers to examine themselves through the character: when Fitz struggles internally over a question, you can't help but ask the same question as well."
Through Cochrane’s narrator we learn Fitz’s backstory and how a young man could reach the point where he has become a kind of gun-wielding stalker. The gun he acquired through a schoolmate easily enough, locating his father by researching the name on the return address of checks his father, Curtis, sends to his mother. Fitz has planned for a month and is finally ready to kidnap his father. Since it is not his nature to break the law or rebel, Fitz is initially hesitant to follow through with his plan. Once he sees a look on his father’s face as he walks to his car; a look of love for something he cherishes in his life, his hesitancy is gone. Fitz has never been cherished by his father like the car has, and this enrages him. His father doesn’t recognize him as Fitz climbs into the passenger seat displaying his gun, and believes he is simply being mugged; he offers his wallet and cell phone as appeasements. This confusion lasts but a moment as Fitz verbally lashes out, revealing his identity though not his motive.
Fitz may be on edge, but he is not a ruthless kidnapper. He directs his father to his daily coffee shop as a way to set everyone at ease, and then to the zoo to recoup some of the back pay of memories he feels his father owes him. Fitz’s anger towards his father begins to dissipate as they visit the zoo and Fitz finally gets some answers to his questions. Then, over a meal of burgers and pie at the diner where Fitz's parents initially met, Fitz sees Curtis’ affections more clearly when he answers questions about how he met Fitz’s mother and how they spent their first date. Curtis clearly loved Fitz’s mother, which confuses Fitz emotionally even more.
As the school day that Fitz has skipped comes to a close, the two must return to Fitz’s home. When Fitz’s mother arrives, worried and angry, she confronts Fitz about his lack of communication and then Curtis about his new, surprising presence in her and Fitz’s life. A less caring man may’ve taken this chance to defend himself, to sell out the boy who still carries a pistol and took him hostage, but Curtis loves his son even if he has yet to say it, and instead covers for Fitz and takes the blame. With the past reoccurring, and his father being sent away again by his mother, Fitz finally fires the gun in an effort to restore order to his world.
FITZ takes themes that are commonly associated with growing up --- finding yourself, relating to others, taking control over your own life --- and examines them through a tense situation. A formerly kind, patient, and polite young man has become so desperate to learn about his past and to find out what he has been missing that he is driven to kidnapping his own father just to make a connection. While the narrative takes place in a day, Fitz’s whole life is adeptly shown through his memories and thoughts, so that the reader is able to understand exactly what it is Fitz has gone through to reach this point.
Mick Cochrane has created a deeply relatable protagonist that allows readers to examine themselves through the character: when Fitz struggles internally over a question, you can't help but ask the same question as well. Cochrane’s style is unique due to the frequent presence of his expository, omniscient narrator, but with such a focused, direct and forward-moving narrative, the novel is engaging and worthy of a read by any teenager with questions about themselves.
Reviewed by Matt Brickell on December 3, 2012