Adam N Crocker
As a Canadian and someone who lived a better part of his life in small towns and in the prairie provinces there's something intimately familiar about the subject matter of 'Woodward and Bernstein Go to Middle School". Prairie literature is often shot through with an awareness of the bleakness of that environment, whether comically in Max Braithwaite's WHY SHOOT THE TEACHER or more seriously in works such as Margaret Laurence's THE STONE ANGEL.
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It's striking that this novel about small-town America rings is so familiar to those sorts of experiences.
J.L. Long narrows in on a particularly cruel part of that existence -- Middle school. Robbie Banks is too cynical and too intelligent for rituals and hypocrisies of a small town, which leads him onto attempting to piece together a tragedy no one will talk about. Long interweaves this narrative with those of several characters in the town with surprising grace, saying a great deal about them in a brief span of words. And he's a skillful enough writer to punctuate the atmosphere with moments of the giddy joys of adolescence and genuine compassion between people. However, be warned on reading this, it's not for the faint of heart and the author understands that endings are often more complicated than simple triumph or tragedy.