Book Review :Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

Book Review :Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
Jude and Teddy are childhood friends growing up in Vermont in the late 1980s. They do nearly everything together—cut school, take drugs, steal, listen to and play hardcore music, and dream of a "real life" away from what they know. Teddy's mother has just disappeared, leaving him to fend for himself and turn to Jude and his family for support. On New Year's Eve, Teddy and Jude meet up with Eliza, the daughter of Jude's father's girlfriend, and they take her to a party in search of fun and drugs (although not necessarily in that order). The party turns their lives upside down in more ways than one, and after they put Eliza back on a train to New York City, Teddy dies of an accidental drug overdose.

Overcome with grief over the death of his best friend, yet unable to express himself, Jude heads to New York and finds Johnny, Teddy's straight-edge half-brother. (Straight-edge kids swear off drugs, alcohol, sex, and often meat, but follow the hardcore punk scene.) When they find out that Eliza is pregnant with Teddy's child from their encounter at the party the night he died, Johnny sees this as a chance to form a real family, one that has escaped him for so long. Yet he must deal with the demons inside himself, as well as Jude's jealousy, on so many different levels. This is a book about finding yourself and realizing what makes a family, about the hardcore music scene of the late 1980s and the changing demographics of New York City, and about trying to avoid making the same mistakes your parents made.

I thought this book was pretty fantastic. Eleanor Henderson created some truly memorable characters and gave each surprising depth, which made me feel truly invested in what happened to them. There were a few times I worried the book would veer into overly dramatic plot twists, but each time, Henderson remained true to the characters and her story, and I was grateful for that. No one is infallible in this book, much as in life, and that is what made the story so appealing to me—although I couldn't necessarily identify with all of the characters and what they were going through, I felt as if all of the characters were realistic, particularly to the places and time in which the book took place. I flew through this book and of course, I'm sorry I finished it so quickly, because I want more. But I look forward to seeing what Henderson comes up with next!


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