‘Home After Dark’ by David Small – A Ring of Feral Cruel Teen Boys

 

‘Home After Dark’, a graphic novel by David Small (2018) – 396 pages

´Home After Dark´ is a profoundly sad dramatic graphic novel about family breakdown and adolescent brutality.

I look back on my own childhood with pleasant nostalgia but then realize that I am overlooking the situations when some of the boys were needlessly cruel to others around them including myself. Worse, I forget my own cruelties. There is something about those early teen years that makes some boys especially cruel to those around them. These boys must feel tremendously insecure, and they take out their insecurities on those around them whom they see as being in a worse position than themselves.

‘Home After Dark’ takes place in the middle 1950s starting out in Youngstown, Ohio. Thirteen year-old Russell Pruitt’s mother has run off with her husband’s best friend. Russell’s father Mike decides to relocate to California taking Russell with him. First they head to Los Angeles, but there are no jobs available for Mike there so they head up to northern California to a small town called Marshfield where Mike gets a job teaching English to the inmates in San Quentin prison.

After that, we mainly see the father Mike laying on the couch with a bottle of hard liquor laying on the floor next to him. Thirteen year-old Russell must fend for himself.

Russell first befriends an outsider in his class named Warren. Later Warren offers Russell two dollars if they take their clothes off and hug each other. Russell goes through with it, but from then on avoids Warren.

Russell then takes up with a more wild couple of boys, Kurt and Willie, who spend most of the summer in a tree house and an abandoned arroyo.

Of all the characters in ‘Home After Dark’, only the Chinese couple Wen and Jian who run a restaurant are at all redemptive. They are the only ones who express any concern for Russell’s well-being.

There are very few words in ‘Home After Dark’, only the bare minimum of words to advance the story. What there is in this graphic novel is thousands of pictures. It must have been an incredible amount of work drawing all of these pictures. But I must say that this graphic novel did work for me in the sense that the grim atmosphere and drama were depicted successfully. However I kept wondering if the story could just as well have been conveyed more efficiently with just some well-chosen words in a short story.

 

Grade:    B+

2 responses to this post.

  1. I suppose it’s because I’ve just read another book by William Golding, but this review made me think immediately of Lord of the Flies, a book which is (or used to be?) often part of the Year 12 curriculum. Do you think this one is in that league?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      No, I don’t believe ‘Home After Dark’ is in the same league as ‘Lord of the Flies’, but very few novels are. For a 2018 graphic novel, ‘Home After Dark’ is pretty good though.

      Like

      Reply

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