Snow Job by Charles Benoit

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snow jobSnow Job by Charles Benoit
Clarion, 2016

It’s the end of 1978, and Nick is stuck in a small town in upstate New York with few prospects. His family are indifferent, and even hostile, to him, he’s failing school, and he earns $2.65 an hour at the Stop-N-Go. He wants to change his life and has written a list to guide him: “Stand Out, Stand Up, Stand By, Stand Fast.” And then one person walks out of his life and two people walk into it, and, between them, they force his hand.

This is a YA noirish slice of life with a gritty late 1970’s white working class setting, signaled by music, clothing, hairstyles, and a much more casual attitude to smoking and drinking.

The main characters follow their classic film noir prototypes: Nick is the innocent, upstanding rube, Zod is the sharky low life criminal, Karla is the good friend, and Dawn is a femme fatale with a Joan Jett haircut. The secondary characters, from school friends to the drug dealers that Nick gets tangled up with, have the tense dialog and jittery undercurrents of a black and white 1940’s crime drama, but without any depth or development.

A lot happens in a very short time, and though the novel doesn’t have quite the sour ending you might expect from a noir, it plays out in a satisfying way. Snow Job will work well for teen readers looking for a moody, character-driven not-quite-a-thriller with an edgy setting.

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