Sunday, December 16, 2012

Untouchable, by Scott O'Connor

  • Title:  Untouchable
  • Author:  Scott O'Connor
  • Borrowed from DC Public Library
  • Started:  11/25/2012
  • Finish:  12/10/2012
In my last post I mentioned wanting to read more scary novels.  This was not something I found based on that search, nor is this a horror novel.  But it is a tough read; scary & disturbing in its own way, and you could almost call it a ghost story.

Not at all what I expected, thinking the novel would focus on the job of those who clean up sites after horrific events (murders, suicides, etc.).  The novel very quickly pushes that to the side, however, and it turns out the protagonist is a young boy (middle school) who is one of the class pariahs (one of the meanings of "untouchable" in the novel, these are the kids who get teased mercilessly in school "don't touch them you don't know what you'll catch").

The bullying and teasing is almost too much for the reader to handle.  Was O'Connor the subject of such taunting as a child?  I hope not, but if so he's put those feeling to good use.  I don't know how anyone could read those passages of bullying and not empathize with "the kid" as he's called throughout the novel.  Getting to know the kid, listening to his thoughts, blaming himself for being the outcast (at one point we find out that the other kids accuse him of having horrible breath, and the kid has been brushing and rinsing multiple times a session to combat that thinking it's true; he also wonders if that is why his mom left, because he smells).

I'm not doing the book or it's protagonist justice.  The grief, fear, and depression in this novel is sometimes too much to bear.  But it is just so compelling you keep going, you have to know that the kid will be alright.  Will he?  I don't know, even after finishing it, but I want to believe he will be.  The biggest issues might be resolved at the end, but not all of it. 

I didn't love the ending, but I don't know what else the author could have done here.  My problem with it is mostly that the two main characters both come to terms with their situation at the exact same time, independent of each other.  But it's a small point on an otherwise incredible book.  

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