Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Atlanta Burns; or, Chuck Wendig is THE MAN

First of all, Wendig, get on that sequel because I need more Atlanta Burns in my life.  Please and thank you.

Secondly, you (yes, all of you) go out and get this as soon as it's released in its omnibus format.  If you have both stories from when they were released separately (Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog) and you haven't read them yet, drop everything (excepting children, pets, and Waterford crystal) and read them now.  You have been warned given a friendly hint.



Atlanta Burns has a reputation.  No, wait, make that a Reputation.  Seems that being a sure shot to knock off something that most men don't want to lose will do that for a girl, especially if she's still in high school.  This whole crazy, messy, disastrous situation crops up because Atlanta stops some of the school bullies from pounding another student named Shane, who is Venezuelan (constantly mistaken for being Mexican), a nerd, and a well-dressed nerd at that.  Now here are some points of note:

The story is set in Pennsylvania, but not like Amish Pennsylvania.  I'm talking line-down-the-middle-of-the-road rich vs. poor town that happens to be in Pennsylvania, or as Atlanta calls it, "Pennsyltucky."  Atlanta self-identifies as a redneck.  Her mama sleeps in the garage and they eat frozen food that tastes like cardboard death.  Every so often, Atlanta heads north of town to her friend Guy's trailer.  Guy is a man of many talents: weapons procurer, drug dealer, and the closet thing Atlanta's got to a therapist.  Which is telling you something.

Saving Shane Lafluco (Venezuelan!) from literally having to eat turds sends Atlanta on the kind of crazy tour of the seedy underbelly of life that you'll probably only get inside a Wendig novel.  That's a compliment, by the way.  Shane introduces Atlanta to Chris Coyne, a member of the school's "self-proclaimed Gay Mafia--La Cozy Nostra," who was brutally attacked by some rich untouchables a while back.  Atlanta tells herself that she's in on the revenge game for the money Chris promises her, but really, she has a deep loathing of injustice, bullying, and kids who act like the worst of criminals and get away with it just because daddy drives a Lexus.

The carefully-planned revenge on Chris' tormentors backfires, however, when they realize that there's a crooked cop in the deal, and that neo-Nazi death metal addicts might just be the least of their problems.

A warning: the bulk of the latter part of the story deals with dog fighting, but it's Atlanta's personal crusade to shut down the operation, especially when one of the dogs, Whitey, sort of adopts her.  Make no mistake.  This is brutal and ugly and makes me want to lose faith in humanity.  But you know what?  If the savior of this town is Adderall-addicted, foul-mouthed, stubborn-as-a-mule Atlanta Burns, them I'm feeling pretty good about things being set to rights.  Now, summarizing the plot as, "girl shuts down dog-fighting ring, avenges her friend, and comes to terms with her own trauma" sounds half Nancy Drew and half Lifetime Original, this is anything but.

The subject matter can get really heavy at times, but Wendig has a deft touch with humor and knows just when to add in Atlanta's signature snark.  My personal favorite, which I will probably use in real life, is the observation of two women wearing sweatpants "emblazoned [with] the word "Juicy" in pink glitter, which Atlanta assumes is supposed to make you think of sex but instead makes her think of ham."

Watch out for the ending, because the story will tear out your heart and stomp on it like a bee-stung elephant before allowing you to gently pick up the pieces and place it back in your chest, where it will start pounding in anticipation of Atlanta Burns' next outing.

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.




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