So I said there’d be another book review this week and lo, LET THERE BE LIGHT. OR A REVIEW. Shotgun Gravy is the brainchild of Chuck Wendig, a dude who’s been entertaining me for quite awhile now. I know I’ve mentioned him a couple times on ye olde blog, and you may have seen me taking part in his flash fiction challenges here, here, and here. He’s got this blog (over here) and you should read it – especially if you ever have any interest in stringing words together for money. He gives out free advice that also happens to be good advice. It’s candid, insightful, funny, and indicative of Chuck’s style as an author.
Right, so, book. It’s hard to call Shotgun Gravy a young adult novella, but I guess it sort of is? I mean, the main characters are all teenagers in high school, and it does address bullying, a very teen-centric issue. My hesitation comes from this being a YA novella as if Quentin Tarantino produced it for 70’s Grindhouse theater. No, not for porno you perverts, but because there’s a style to the violence here, a certain “I could give a fuck less what you think” attitude on the part of the main character that feels less YA-like and more Hobo With A Shotgun, only it’s Atlanta Burns with a shotgun and she’s taking out the high school bully squad. I pictured this filmed on gritty reel with a tinny jazz soundtrack and a lot of olive-colored retro cars squealing by in the background.
So, who IS Atlanta Burns? Welp, this chick!
Atlanta Burns had something very bad happen to her once, and her solution to that very bad thing was to use a shotgun to fix her problems. The violent incident in question is not revealed at the beginning of Shotgun Gravy, but it’s made clear that everyone knows about This Mystery Horrible, even at her new school. It’s a shadow that’s followed her and will never let her go. Because she’s the “get shit done” girl re: her own issues, she becomes a logical go-to girl for the local underdogs. They admire that she took things into her own hands and essentially hire her to dispatch the crappy bullies in their school.
There’s lots to like in this book. For starters, Shotgun Gravy’s got good action, a good story, and a hell of an interesting cast. For all that retribution-for-wrongs-done is a theme in the book, so too is the notion that doing bad things (justified or not) have consequences. Atlanta Burns reaps what she sows. I like that; I like that you can’t just become Batman and everything will be copacetic and peachy. My only “complaint” would be that the teenagers’ dialogue sometimes falls into the Juno trap, as in the kids are so glib it can feel too stylized to be real, but when taken in context with the overall mood of the book, it works. So if it’s a complaint, it’s a very small one, and one I can overlook.
It’s probably worth noting that there’s a lot of brutality in this story, so don’t go into it expecting roses and a unicorn shower – there’s some flinch-worthy scenes and very harsh language that might not appeal to all audiences. I personally loved it, but I’m an advocate of all things profane anyway. More sensitive readers might find that off-putting. Also, Atlanta Burns’ story will be told in the style of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, wherein four smaller novellas make an overall bigger arc. If we the readers like her first story well enough, Mr. Wendig’s promised to write her second and subsequently a third and a fourth. As this book rocked the socks, yo, I’d recommend everyone with an eReader pick this puppy up so we can see where Atlanta’s arc goes.
(Edit: BUY DEAD TREE VERSION HERE FROM SKYSCAPE.)