Andrew Smith is a phenomenal author who's among the best writers of male adolescence in contemporary literature. Yes, he's that good. He captures the ethos of teen boyhood -- pimples, pranks, penis jokes, and all -- and adds in the deep and mind-boggling ways young adults and not-quite-men question the marvels of the universe, starting with their own strange histories. Finn is tired of being the "boy in the book," particularly when that book is about alien invaders who want to rape and eat people (but that's his dad's crazy story, not his). What Finn wants is to hang out with Cade, and once he meets Julia, he just wants to be with her, kiss her, and think about being with and kissing her. But no matter how hard Finn tries, he can't stop thinking about the fateful day a horse headed to a knackery (rendering plant) killed his mom and changed his life.
Finn's quirky journey of self-discovery is not for every reader, particularly those who just want escapist romances or definable genre stories. Nothing about Smith's books is superficial or easy to describe. And that's more than fine, because Smith is a stellar wordsmith who gets that the same 16-year-old guy who cracks up at his best friend's elaborate pranks and obsesses about the indignity of never having kissed a girl also can describe his seizures as a beautiful emptying of words and the inevitability of death as "the knackery never shuts down." Smith provides his readers with another pivotal father-son relationship, one in which the father and son truly know, respect, and love each other, even when ugly, regrettable teen words are spoken. He also portrays young love as more than a lust-fueled (although, yes, there is lust, too) endeavor but as a meeting of open minds and tender hearts. Few authors can make you think, laugh, and cry all at once, but Smith can and does with every one of his novels.