Sebastian's Poet by Kevin Craig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
You might experience flashbacks or nostalgia along the way through this quick read of a story, as I certainly experienced throughout Craig's second novel. The story and the characters draw you into the afterparty, the clean-up and the questions that reveal further questions and missing puzzle pieces.
Craig adeptly maneuvers the reader through the story that is one part a happy trip down memory lane interwoven with a heartbreaking tale of a family fractured, broken, and quite possibly beyond repair. Seb or Sebby is the main character, a boy forced to grow up far too young by a mother who quickly leaves, a vacant father ensnared by his own dark past, a younger brother who needs someone to be responsible, and a parade of party guests that come and go leaving Sebby juggling all the beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays.
Along the way, Sebby finds moments of respite when a famous visitor, Teal Landon, "Uncle" Teal to the boys, swoops in and takes some of the responsibility off Sebby's shoulders. But, why he chooses to be so gracious and what's behind the unspecified motives of Teal's and Tommy's (Sebby's father) personal and professional relationships are left hidden behind the smoke and marijuana clouds that permeate the neverending cavalcade of partying and strangers present. To Sebby, it's no gift, either. He's expected to make all the right choices, leaving everyone else to their own devices.
As the story peels back layers of hidden truth and twists along the way, Sebby battles his own heart to save his family.
If I were to compare this book with Craig's YA debut novel, SUMMER ON FIRE, I would choose it over SEBASTIAN'S POET, primarily as a matter of personal preference. Both stories are fantastic, worthy reads in their own way, but I found a stronger connection with Craig's debut. Still, there is much to be said in dusting off your vinyl records, revving up your turnstile and setting down the needle on the pages of Craig's sophomore novel, SEBASTIAN'S POET.
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