War Boy is The Catcher in the Rye of NOW! I'm 17, and I know that if they put this book out in a cheap paperback that teens could afford they would sell a million copies. Radboy is someone my generation can really relate to, especially compared to a preppie like Holden Caulfield back in my grandpa's time when there wasn't even rock and roll.
This was the first hardback book I ever bought, after reading the review in the Post, with quotes that made it sound like my best friend talking to me, instead of a writer talking down to me. But that review didn't cover the most important things about War Boy. It's about figuring out what's right and wrong and how to make your life count for something even when the cards are stacked against you. And it's about believing in yourself and following your own feelings instead of what society expects. Don't be scared off by the drugs and the queer characters, or the radical ideas. They're in there to challenge you to put aside your prejudice and learn from people who aren't like you. This book doesn't TELL you drugs are bad--it SHOWS you. But it also shows you why some people take drugs, and makes you understand, instead of just condemn, them.
I know the author must be at least 30, but he's stayed in touch with the good and bad parts of life as it's lived by somebody half his age. War Boy is very realistic about fears and emotions and desires. Unlike Rule of the Bone, for example, that tries to be all kewl wih a k as Radboy would say, but comes across like some old pothead hippie's idea of what it's like to be a teenager. For instance, in that book the narrator is 15 and thinks about sex ONCE for two pages out of 400. A 15 year old male? Radboy isn't obsessed with sex, but it's treated in a natural and sympathetic way, not ignored. Also, it is tied to love. To understand what a moral book this is, you have to read it. The promotion doesn't give the right impression. But it is never preachy. It is very funny, in fact. You will never forget Radboy. As I said, he is the Holden Caulfield of the 21st century.