Tragic Age - NEW

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Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Release date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 320
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook


This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at.  The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.


NOTE: This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

The Review

Stephen Metcalfe’s THE TRAGIC AGE is an impactful, intense and riveting novel with a smart, interesting and somewhat antisocial protagonist whose oftentimes profound statements are delivered in a way that is sharp, clever and witty. It’s a story that makes a statement from the start with a quick, entertaining, intelligent and opinionated narrative that tells you exactly who Billy Kinsey is, how he thinks and how he sees the world.

A number of events have led up to the Billy Kinsey we first meet. Billy might have called those events fate. His father wins the lottery. He invests well. The family moves to an affluent community. His parents fight it off but eventually conform to the behaviors of what is expected of the wealthy. His sister Dorie gets sick. She dies. Billy is forever changed.

And during this brief time we get to know Billy, his life is altered once again. Enter Twom. He is charismatic, larger-than-life, he doesn’t play by any rules but his own. He’s non-conformist. He won’t get pushed around. He stands up to those that do. He makes Billy want to embrace chaos and change. He makes Billy engage with life.

THE TRAGIC AGE is not a story that promises happy times and a happy ending. It’s sad. It’s violent. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s hopeful. It’s real. Its characters are destructive and pessimistic and exciting and disconcerting and free-spirited and kind and cruel. They’re shaped by their circumstances, their parents, the world they live in, the time they live in, who they are, who their friends are, and most of all the choices they make.

Author Stephen Metcalfe paints a disturbing yet authentic picture of the world today and some of the ways it has the potential to influence and impact today’s disaffected youth. He introduces a character who is brilliant and jaded and angry and fatalistic and introverted. Someone who is informed and complex and sarcastic and inventive. Someone who is capable of change, even if they don’t know it. And he does so in a way that is biting, humorous, provocative, imaginative, compelling.

THE TRAGIC AGE is a truly spectacular must-read debut. It’s poignant. It’s stunning. It’s important. It’s compelling. It’s unputdownable. It offers a no b.s. look at the world through its main character’s eyes and through his funny and informational factoids and sidebars. It delivers thrills and excitement and a touch of romance. And, as the title promises, tragedy.

The Rating

Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

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