Ritchie Sudden begins his story when he falls in love with a used guitar and is well on his way to rock contest dreams with his best friend Elliott, also known as El Hella. Told in alternating segments between present time in a juvenile detention center and in an assigned journal covering the year leading up to his arrest, WISE YOUNG FOOL is a journey into the rock, sarcasm and passion-driven mind of a senior struggling to overcome grief and guilt over his sister’s death.
Beaudoin, author of funny noir YOU KILLED WESLEY PAYNE and more, fills Ritchie’s words with cracking wit and intelligence to spare. While readers will both want to know what caused Ritchie to end up in juvie and be afraid to find out, they will find themselves rooting for him.
"Ritchie’s unflagging sarcasm and cynicism wear on his family and friends, but readers will laugh out loud at his observations and dialogue."
Penning lyrics good enough to win an epic upcoming rock contest while pushing aside consuming thoughts of hot Rayvenna, Ritchie struggles to build a band with just El Hella. They find a drummer named Chaos (pronounced Chow-us) who only plays the bongos, and Ritchie hefts some equipment from a teacher who tries too hard to be cool. He also gets involved with Lacy, his first relationship.
In between scenes of how the band grew, Ritchie’s counseling sessions and journal entries fill in a picture of life in juvie. He has been set up to fight more than once, and the resulting beatings are not enough to keep other inmates from wanting him to fight again. He avoids them, preferring the company of B’los and working in the library, but it is clear he can’t stay away from fights forever. His counselor probes at him about his family, and Ritchie talks about how his sister was killed by a drunk driver her freshman year, how his father then left and built another family and how his mother’s girlfriend, nicknamed Looper, quickly moved in. Readers find out about situations where Ritchie had a chance to step in to tough situations and help but froze, including when a friend was choking on food right next to him or when other musicians threaten Elliott.
Though broken up with Ritchie after their brief relationship, Lacy joined the band as a very talented singer, and Ritchie soon finds himself getting romantic with Rayvenna. Even when his dream girl is sent to a posh boarding school, he visits and gets involved with her only to learn how she really sees him. The band struggles to find their footing at a school talent show, but soon being to gel for the rock concert.
More threats and fights build at the center, and his counselor tries to help, getting Ritchie in more trouble with the inmates. He agrees to enter another fight. At the same time, he journals about the secret surrounding his sister’s death that he never dealt with, a secret that resulted in his taking action, leading to his arrest.
Ritchie’s unflagging sarcasm and cynicism wear on his family and friends, but readers will laugh out loud at his observations and dialogue. Beaudoin builds suspense with the interlaced stories between past and present successfully to create a page-turning read. While the stories together run long, readers will enjoy seeing Ritchie throw off his grief and deal in a clever and funny ending.