At Dawn Review

For the most part, I read Fantasy and Science-Fiction. I love that stuff. If it’s got some sort of speculative element, you’ve got my attention. That sentiment is how I initially ran across Jobie Hughes. Kinda.

I learned of him while googling the alien author Pittacus Lore, who wrote I Am Number Four. This alien may or may not be part Jobie Hughes. I don’t know. It was all very mysterious initially.

Either way, I found out he was writing a book and jumped aboard to check it out, since he’s an interesting author. Hughes, not Lore. ;)

Quickie blurb from Hughes’ site:

Set in Chicago during the height of the great recession, a former All-American wrestler on the cusp of adulthood comes to terms with a shattered past, failed dreams, and poverty while falling headlong into an obsessive love affair.

Jobie Hughes’ At Dawn was nothing like what I usually read. In fact, if I had a reading comfort zone, it would be safely outside of that; and yet I found it easy to sink into.

This is due entirely to Hughes’ ability to weave engaging, vivid scenes of the most mundane situations (i.e., bus rides, dive bars, apartment shopping). He does this with crisp details that you could touch, each placed in just the right place for the great rhythm he keeps throughout. Unfortunately, the protaginist Stratton Brown really seems to be a waste of Hughes’ wonderful talents.

Stratton is a familiar character. Familiar, yes, but not very likable. As much as I wanted to root for Stratton, despite Hughes’ deft hand at storytelling, I couldn’t for the most part. He had some redeemable traits and moments, but overall I found him to be quite bratty. On the other hand, it was a coming of age story. I just would have agreed with it more if Stratton had been 22 and not 27.  And while Stratton rubbed me the wrong way, nothing else in the book did.

But let me clear here: my problems with this book are personal problems.

In an economy where yes, the question is “is this all America has to offer 20-somethings?” I can’t help but want to bang my head on the desk with the answer: hell yes. And be glad you got that. Despite the struggle that so many of us–like Stratton–have experienced, we’re still a managing to maintain such a privileged, spoiled outlook.

Take Stratton. Early on in the book, his edgiest hardship was not eating for a week. But even that was broken by $50 from a coworker. And while I realize that not eating for a week and roughing it in a college roommate’s extra bedroom is quite the nightmare for most middle class men and women, it’s not terrible enough that I could sympathize much.

But Hughes is honest about his character: he lays out his psychological trauma and inspects it via the exposure his current life presents and the flashbacks into his past that give the reader food for thought. And it does give the reader a great chance to examine many things–our trials, our moral compasses, our thoughts and actions from day-to-day, our relationships. But more than likely what you’ll find is that like Stratton, we all have some growing up to do. Maybe that’s what rubbed me the wrong way. I recognized this same sentiment/issue in myself.

If it’s a self-painted portrait of Hughes, then he was honest to a point that is stunning and admirable.

Otherwise, At Dawn is still a well-written novel about a young man struggling out of a decidedly morose past and fighting to keep his future from being just as grim. It’s an enjoyable read that’s easy to get swept away in with characters you know and situations you’ve lived.

You can learn more about Jobie Hughes on his site.

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