Author Larry Watson returns to Milkweed Press for the publication of his new novel. He has written about adolescence before, most famously in Montana 1948 (Milkweed 1993). Montana 1948 is assigned in schools, and found a place on YALSA’s Outstanding Books for the College Bound list in 1999. From looking at Watson’s website, it continues to be a popular choice for One Book, One Community reads.
In September, Montana 1948 was challenged by a group of parents at Merrill High School, Wisconsin, when it became assigned reading in 10th grade English classes. The school board voted to both keep it in the library collection and to allow it as assigned reading.
Adult/High School–There is an air of familiarity to American Boy, a coming-of-age story set in rural Minnesota in the early 1960s. Shedding the innocence of adolescence, struggling to accommodate obsessive lust, and realizing that adults are not always what they seem are issues that fuel the genre. What distinguishes this novel is the ease with which Watson creates atmospheric breadth and emotional depth for his characters to explore. Matt Garth is an angry, impulsive teen from a broken home. His best friend’s family accepts Matt as one of their own, despite their difference in social standing and values. Matt admires and idealizes Dr. Dunbar, Johnny’s father and the esteemed town doctor, and is an eager student of medical practice. When an enigmatic young waitress in town is shot by her boyfriend and subsequently treated at the home office of Dr. Dunbar, Matt and Johnny are allowed to see the sutures on the wound of the anesthetized woman. However, when the sheet slips, they glimpse the breast of Louisa Lendhal and Matt becomes obsessed with lust for her. He struggles with the impossibility of his feelings for her even as he schemes to pursue a sexual encounter with her. His increasingly erratic behaviors cause a rift with Johnny and draw the wrath of the suddenly righteous Dr. Dunbar. American Boy honestly reflects the experiences of a teen re-configuring the puzzle pieces of emotions, sex, relationships, self, and the complexities of adulthood.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY