Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this Atlanta Burns omnibus from Netgalley.
Shotgun Gravy: When a friend of a friend is violated by bullies in an attempt to set him straight, Atlanta Burns goes on the offensive. But can a teenage girl everyone is afraid of get the job done?
Add redneck noir Young Adult fiction to the list of things Chuck Wendig is good at. Shotgun Gravy is tale of fighting against bullying by a teenage girl that's seen a lot in her young life. I've seen her referred to as Nancy Drew with a shotgun but she's more like another Wendig character, Miriam Black, only younger and without supernatural abilities.
Shotgun Gravy isn't a trip to the YA parade, either. There are neo-Nazis, bullies, and even the protagonists are damaged goods. It's way more like Winter's Bone than stereotype YA love triangle mush. I was halfway through the first novella before I realized it. I kept thinking "Is Atlanta going to Red Harvest these shitheads?"
Side note: One thing I think Chuck Wendig excels at is creating gay characters that have an identity outside of being gay. You wouldn't think that would be as rare as it is in this day and age but here we are.
Bait Dog: One of Atlanta's friends dies, apparently a suicide. When a classmate hires her to find her who stole her dog, Atlanta stumbles upon a dog fighting ring. Are the two connected? And can Atlanta find out AND make enough money to keep the bank from foreclosing on her mother's house?
Bait Dog is a powerful little book. When you hear a book described as Young Adult, you don't think of this. Well, maybe if someone speculated what a Young Adult book by Jim Thompson would read like. You know what really puts the cherry on top of killing gays? A dog fighting ring! There sure are some galaxy-class douche bags in Atlanta Burns' general vicinity.
This is some bleak shit. Shotgun Gravy was just the tip of the iceberg of despair. Atlanta goes through the meat grinder once again, this time dragging her friends with her. It was novel length but felt a thousand times longer because of the unrelenting hopelessness of Atlanta's plight. Dirty cops, dirty millionaires, dirty dog fight ring owners, dirty, dirty dirty. I enjoyed it and thought it was very well done but I was glad as shit when it was over.
Side note: I have to think Chuck Wendig is a fan of the Wire since there are characters named Bird and Bodie and a dog named Omar.
If Atlanta Burns is any indication, 2015 is going to be another stellar year for Chuck Wendig. Four out of five stars.
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