Apparently this book like, just came out. I borrowed it from my library after the Overdrive app recommended it. Hurt People is Cote Smith’s debut as a novelist, and I’m excited/terrified to see what he comes up with next.
“(E)veryone ended up either directly in prison, as the prisoner or the guard, or became tied to a prison in a hazy way, some way no one talked about our could put a finger on, which made it even worse.”
Set in 1988 in Leavenworth, Kansas (yeah, with all the prisons), Hurt People is narrated by a nine or ten year old boy whose name we never learn. He and his slightly older brother are left home a lot (A LOT, even for the 1980s in a relatively small town), as the children of overworked, divorced parents. Left to their own devices one summer, they befriend a young man at the pool named Chris. Chris insists that they don’t tell their parents about him — he makes up a lot of goofy stories — which drives a wedge between the two boys and eventually causes big trouble. Also, a prisoner called “The Stranger” has just escaped Leavenworth.
The atmosphere of this book is electric. Literally, at times — the author uses Kansas tornado season to his advantage. But the tension between the boys, between their parents, between their mom and her new boyfriend, between the town and the escaped prisoner, and of course, the presence of Chris — I was having heart palpitations. The worst thing is the reader knows what’s going to happen. But the narrator is young and naive, and he doesn’t. You want to help him, or cover your eyes, but instead — you keep reading the damn thing.