Jonathan Evison ~ Algonquin ~ April 3, 2018 ~ 320 Pages
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Mike Munoz is a 22-year old Chicano living in the Seattle area with his overworked mother and severely autistic older brother. Mike is smart and driven. His goal is to build his own landscaping business—he’s just not sure how. Surviving the day-to-day seems to be all he has time for anyway (and he’s not doing a good job of that either…). It doesn’t help that everything seems to be going wrong lately: his brother’s mood swings are out of control, his car won’t start, and his landscaping equipment is stolen. Things aren’t too hot in the romance department either. What Mike needs is a break. And maybe a little support. Someone to make out with wouldn’t hurt either.
This book is basically the young adult version of The Jungle. Mike is down and out, despite all his best efforts. Everything you can think of that might go wrong goes wrong for him—sometimes it’s his fault, sometimes it isn’t. At his lowest, Mike seeks help from three different types of people: 1) the friendly, deadbeat con, 2) the scheming, brown-nosing salesman, and 3) the hopeless older guy who’s barely tried but has already given up on life. In the end, Mike has to take what’s he’s learned over a disastrous few months and use it to find his own way. (And, no, he doesn’t end up a socialist).
Overall, I enjoyed the casual tone of the story. I empathized with Mike. Honestly, reading about his struggle made me remember again how good I have it. I’ve been through some things in my life, but I’ve never had to deal with poverty or racism, like so many other people have. The book also reminded me of all the innovative brains and driven personalities out there that are kept from sharing their goodness with the world because of poverty. What an absolute waste of perfectly good human potential. God, it’s depressing.
My only minor complaint about the book is that Mike’s love relationships seemed poorly-developed and especially rushed at the end. It didn’t flow well with the rest of the book, more like author Jonathan Evison wanted to MAKE A POINT without properly weaving it into Mike’s story.
Regardless, I enjoyed Lawn Boy. Mike—as a poor, male, book-loving, Chicano yard worker with an autistic brother—is definitely a unique character. And even though the story felt underdeveloped at times, I liked hearing his voice.
Thank you to Algonquin Books and Net Galley for the Advanced Reader Copy!