Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Pure Sunshine

by Brian James

Named for the type of acid the character are tripping on over its two-night span, this book follows a small group of Philly boys getting their party on, and sticking around with the one who's narrating as his night goes a little south.

This book doesn't seem like it's just for shock value, a big issues book, though it does talk about the drugs a bit and lets the narrator ponder more than a little about who he really is, what he wants, and why he hides parts of that from certain people, even among his group of friends.

Instead, it gives strong, believable descriptions of what an acid trip is like and how your body reacts to it, how the narrator feels at different points over the night as he rides out the effects of the chemicals and some weed he adds in, and then the next day. He talks a bit about what kind of kid he is, too, which some will identify with, and others may find interesting or may just dismiss.

The second night, he is not reacting well, gets into a huge, ugly argument with friends, and takes off on his own for a night of no fun, just hanging on to survive until the drugs leave his system. By the time morning comes, he is in rough shape, and the appearance of the girl of his dreams is the only thing that lifts him out of the gutter and the beginnings of self-pity.

The thing about this bad night of his is that it's not written to be some sort of comeuppance or morality thing. It just is what happened with too much chemical and not enough positive stuff to think about - which I think is important, because there is nothing a teenager is going to want to read less than a lesson on how he asked for it and no good came of his drug use. That, they've heard. Instead, the book answers some of those questions about what it's like to use drugs without making it either glamourous and fantastic or horrible and a sure dead end. It's got balance.

The other thing about this book is that you really see a normal, not-so-bad kid not always following his best instincts because they are not cool, but wishing he could. So while he joins in the bragging about girls and such, he actually has a major crush on a nice girl for all the right reasons, and is sort of waiting for someone like her before he has sex - he just doesn't want to admit that and face potential ridicule. And while he does okay in school and all, he doesn't want to be seen to be too interested or care too much, because it's not cool to. Instead, he talks about how he and his friends keep having to up the ante, moving from one sort of harmless trouble to the next level, when sometimes he wishes they could go back to doing small, goofy things for fun instead of having to see them as boring and chasing the next little high of small-time trouble.

By the end, he has not necessarily decided to turn over a new leaf and reject all of that as a result of some epiphany, but he is finding himself longing for simpler things and more truth, and maybe a shot at making that nice girl his, cutting the b.s. It's an interesting ride because unlike many books, not much is resolved, but some possibilities of what comes after are left wide open. And while I kind of hate not knowing, I think it might play better with a teen than a tidy ending, especially since things still are wide open at that age.

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A very thoughtful review...thanks for taking the time to read my book.

brian james
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