‘Your mom doesn’t love you as much as she used to. She thinks there might be something wrong with you. Is she right? Is there something wrong with you?’
One month to the day since my last post. I return from hiatus with an intriguing read that has accumulated somewhat of a cult following in the US. Confronting, puzzling and strangely satisfying – Citrus County is worth a try if you want to change things up a little.
Every now and then you come across a book that is difficult to explain. This is one of them. It’s set in Citrus County, Florida, where the weather and the townspeople seem equally stifling. The story centres on three characters. There’s 15 year old Toby – independent, and adrift his stale surroundings. There’s his new classmate, Shelby, bright and confident until tragedy fractures her life. And there’s Mr Hibma, a young teacher at their school who goes to unusual lengths to break the monotony of his disappointing life. This is a book where it pays not to know much about where the story is going, so I won’t give anything away. Essentially, it’s about human darkness and a frightening impulse to destroy those around you, in order to make sense of your own life.
When I stumbled across Citrus County, I’d just met a big deadline and was looking for something readable and entertaining to reward myself. The reviews promised a gripping read and John Brandon delivers. He takes the fuzzy adolescent coming of age template and quickly turns it on its head. The result is original and more than a little disconcerting. But it’s also a real page-turner, if you’ll forgive the cliché. As a reader you’ll have a complicated relationship with the characters, who are relatable in many ways and highly confronting in others. However, Brandon’s deft writing style throws you in – engaging your senses and weaving a heady and slightly claustrophobic story. It’s dark, but not entirely depressing and he does leave things on a hopeful note.
As I’ve said, Citrus County is quite unusual and, as such, may not be for everyone. But it certainly set my mind whirring. It’s a skilful read if nothing else and definitely earns its place on my bookshelf.