The Fracking King by James Browning
Win Crwth, rhymes with Truth, loves Scrabble. He relates to the world through it. Poorly.
This (YA? Do any youth actually know how to spell anymore?) story seemed full of potential. A boy with a Welsh name and parents who thought being bi-coastal would make him cosmopolitan (instead, he became “a hippie prig”) receives a scholarship to his 3rd boarding school. A scholarship sponsored by Dark Oil & Gas, which leads to far-too-many Darkside puns and nowhere near enough Battlestar Galactica references. His new boarding school almost offers Scrabble as a sport, has one female student, and a poet laureate who plagiarizes his idiot son and drinks polluted water as a “statement.” This occurs in Pennsylvania, a state where the water is flammable and the politicians are finally literate.
Sounds funny, right? Sounds like a plot Carl Hiaasen would approve of. It is, almost. I feel there was so much more weirdness to plumb. The author stops before the juicy bits earn any importance. Amid the wacky characters are real topics. The ending feels unearned, and the most interesting character, Linda LaRue, doesn’t have nearly enough page time. She was the antagonist on whom the horrors of fracking, politics and the basic density of humanity was placed. She’s pretty great, honestly. Win places such emphasis on a showdown with her that lasts less than a paragraph and which, while amusing, lacks any lasting impact.
I had higher hopes for this book. The writing is wittier than average and the characters are well-developed… they just didn’t go anywhere (aside from Philadelphia to the Scrabble playoff).