C. Lee McKenzie
Happy Book Birthday!
"My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn't been laid yet. I couldn't go into the slammer before that happened." Hutch McQueen.
Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped between an abusive mother and an absentee father. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.
C. Lee McKenzie cannot write a bad book. Her style is so lyrical and her teen “voice” in this one is so perfect that I had serious author envy the entire time I was reading. I loved all her other books, but this one is her best work yet. Hutch is a character that is so real and has so much depth, that I devoured his story in two nights. Without giving away the plot, let me say that Hutch is the poster child for so many students who struggle with crappy home lives and difficulties in school (in Hutch’s case –reading). This is a bright kid who just needs some extra help.
And, boy, does he get that help in the form of an ex-street thug turned priest (Father Kerry) and a retired school teacher, (Maggie Scott). Between the two of them, they manage to help Hutch realize that he must take control of his own life and make the choice to succeed or fail.
One of the best things C. Lee McKenzie did in this book is give the adult characters as much depth as the teens, something that is too often lacking in YA books. My favorite is Hutch’s father, Jimmie. A good old boy from Texas, he starts out acting like an absentee parent, but as the story move along, I was thrilled to see Jimmie grow and take on the responsibilities of a pretty decent father.
Double Negative is one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year. Highly recommended and a must-have for every high school library.
I'm a writer who captures the pulse of adolescent confusion in my Young Adult fiction, Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas. Of course, I often reveal a lot of my Old Adult confusion while doing that. My first Middle Grade fantasy titled Alligators Overhead went out to good reviews, and my third Young Adult, Double Negative will be published this summer by Evernight Teen.