Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cute Eats Cute, a book review

Cute Eats Cute by C.B. Murphy is a cynical, funny, and surprisingly tender-hearted social satire and coming-of-age story. In a Minneapolis suburb, community discord over whether hunters should cull a burgeoning deer herd in the local nature reserve becomes a vehicle for dissecting a multitude of modern America's social divisions. Talk radio, New Age religion, eco-sentimentalism, pop psychology and macho hunter culture all come under Murphy's microscope.

Fifteen-year-old Sam's hippie parents want him to call them Jeff and Elissa, but they agree on little else. Elissa is an eco-feminist, a vegan, and a newly converted Wiccan, while Jeff, an officer with the Department of Natural Resources, swerves ever closer to a manly hunting culture. Sam and his band of high school friends are convinced that killing deer is cruel and harmful to the earth, and they decide to Do Something. The Something escalates from street theater to sabotage. When Megan, the object of Sam's lust, asks him to infiltrate the hunters' camp, Sam finds himself bouncing wildly among people with different belief systems and affiliations.

Sam's undercover mission allows Murphy to poke fun at a medley of characters, from the activist lesbian who wears a gas mask for her Environmental Sensitivity to the bow-toting Christian Hunters of Men. A family eco-therapist urges Sam to pass through an initiation and be on the lookout for a spiritual guide, but Sam can't figure out whether to follow a radical ecoterrorist who may or may not be advocating human sacrifice. Meanwhile his parents are on the verge of divorce, his friend Ryan always says the least helpful thing, the alluring Megan thinks he's gay, and Holly, the fourth member of their gang, gets pregnant. How does a girl who would do anything to stop the murder of deer reason about abortion?

In Murphy's pitch-perfect and very funny dialogue, characters talk past each other as if they're speaking code and never seem to arrive at truly common understanding. Sam's observations of the people and places around him are astute, but his own teenage cluelessness and confusion come through with increasing clarity. From its hilarious beginnings, the book moves almost imperceptibly to a more serious level where Sam has to make real choices with real and at times disastrous consequences. A strong action climax brings the book to a close, and if Sam's emotional confusion never entirely clears, maybe that's just a realistic reflection of what it means to live in a greyish, imperfect world. This book was great fun to read, and I recommend it highly to teen boys and adults.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...