Brad Land

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Brad Land

Low in high school

Holden Caulfield was a whining pussy. The woes of The Catcher in the Rye’s famous narrator seem bourgeois and banal next to the troubles that dog Terry Webber, 15, protagonist of Pilgrims. Terry’s mom is gone, his mill-worker dad moves town to town, and his high-school existence is pure ennui, a smear of pointless days, lowlife friends and sheets to the wind.

Alice Washington, a classmate on her own lost highway, plots with Terry to escape to her sister’s commune in Colorado. Only hours into the getaway journey, Alice dies in a car crash. The second half of this beautifully written novel recounts Terry’s grief-stricken wobble through a high-school labyrinth of cigarettes, drugs, fistfights, petty crime and—just maybe—back to hope again.

Fans of Land’s first book, the best-selling memoir, Goat, will be pleased with his debut novel. Land owns a spot-on gift for rendering what it’s like to be young and, all too frequently, absurdly miserable.