Rated 4.00/5 based on 1 reviews
This darkly comic novel opens with Wallace Black as the target of the school bully’s violence. After suffering a horrendous beating, Wallace goes home to his equally abusive family. As a punishment for fighting at school, his mother straps a set of grotesque horns to the top of Wallace’s head. Wallace is unsure of where the horns came from. They have always been in the house. More

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Review by: Jim Gavin on April 06, 2011 :
The story of a young boy growing up in Prunty's familiar landscape of twisted, industrial Ohio, horribly abused by parents, teachers and his fellow students alike, F---ness' hero makes Oliver Twist look like a celebrity adoptee by comparison. But, going along with the way Prunty plays with the genre, there is nothing particularly special about Wallace Black. In fact, he's had to repeat the 8th grade a few times. Not that that helps him any in dealing with the kids around him, in fact his emotional and physical development seems to have stopped a few years before. Wally talks a lot about the titular "F---ness" - an amorphous mass of everything that can make life bad, a cross between bad luck and a curse that is like a fog surrounding him and pressing him down. Prunty does a good job through the main character of making this seem less like classic teenage angst and self-pity and creates the F---ness as a mysterious, malevolent force that is always waiting just over the next hill to crush our hero. It's never made clear and Wally never has any kind of apocalyptic confrontation with it, which is why the device works so well - it's all the horrible feelings of adolescence made into a force of nature. Not that you could blame Wally for feeling bad for himself. After a particularly horrible beat-down at school, prompted by his cringe-worthy encounter with a backstabbing vixen over a piece of candy, Wally returns home to endure the horrible punishments of his parents. Quite a bit of the early parts of the book are devoted to the fiendishness of these punishments, from things like not letting Wally sleep in a bed to making him mow the lawn with a lawn mower that is more a death-device than a yard tool. As final punishment for being sent home from school as as "molester", Wally mother affixes a set of ugly horns to his head with a leather belt. But the horns have a terrible, mysterious power, and this is what sets Wally on his journey through the rusted-out wasteland of his hometown and out to the wild, beautiful countryside. Along the way he will have been cut off from everything in his life, and totally alone, he falls in with other drifters, bums and losers as they all try to make their own way in a world that doesn't seem to be made for them. Prunty does a great job of not giving you what you'd expect, but giving you something more enjoyable instead without straining the reality he's created. As usual Prunty's world is well-defined in it's weirdness, and the childlike quality of the way Wally and the people he meets live and interact in the world is heightened by the books YA feel (the pee race scene is hilarious). You almost never know what to expect because it seems like anything is possible, from flying bicycles to mass murder. And not just that - but maybe Wally doesn't know as much about his life and his family as he thinks he did. That to me was a real treat and what sets the book apart from the YA genre crap I keep comparing it to.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

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