Johnson, Peter. Loserville.
Front Street Books (see Boyd's Mill Press) 2009 150 17.95 978-1-59078-581-2 hs/adult
Nobody knows how much pain Derek Grace is experiencing in Loserville, not even his friends, in this tragic novel about a teenager who sees no recourse other than to run away from his family and friends. Loserville is a thought-provoking book that will have young adults and parents discussing what went wrong in Derek's life to lead him stage his own suicide and disappear. Derek did not seem to be on this path, and that is what is disturbing. Surrounded by good friends who exhibited somewhat questionable yet not atypical teen behaviors, Derek's pain was not evident, not until he appeared on a reality TV show called Loserville, run by egomaniac, Jesus, who takes a family, dissects its problems on nationwide television, then treats the children like they're at boot camp, crushing and never helping. Derek's role models were hopeless, and that is part of what contributed to his lack of direction. His English teacher, Mr. Sparks, was a user, offering his home, marihuana, and companionship to a small group of students in return for kicks and some help with his summer business. Derek's father, in mourning after the death of Derek's mother, was unable to communicate with Derek, especially after he married a young, recovered drug addict, the sexy Claudia. Derek's friends, all preppies, were fun-loving and supportive. In a vague way, we can feel that something bad is going to happen. Even after his disappearance, there is no one to help Derek's friends cope with the loss. Derek's girlfriend Coco is left with a tattoo depicting a cross with a letter D wrapped around it, a permanent reminder of their relationship. The session at the tattoo parlor, which might have foreshadowed a cataclysmic event, seemed to be a normal rite of passage. The final moments at a golf course which shows the friends celebrating the end of the summer, represented a happy time before the climax, Derek's appearance on Loserville. MS.