Some days I am so thankful for this blog and the wonderful people it has put me in contact with. Today is one of those days, because it made my acquaintance with Huston Piner’s 2013 release My Life as a Myth published on Prizm Books. I knew nothing about this tale when it was presented to me, and the humble cover and even humbler author left me without a clue as to what to expect. That made the journey all the more exciting and special, as what unfurled in the pages of this wonderfully written masterpiece was nothing short of a miracle.
Set in 1969, when large portions of the Western world had unrepealed laws prohibiting homosexuality, we find the journal of Nicholas “Napalm Nick” Horton, a 15 year old student about to start his high school career. His mere attendance at a bus stop lands him into trouble on his first day, a day which causes a cascade of unfortunate events leading him to become the school pariah, a reputation he neither wanted nor truly earned. Piner’s crafting of this character was exquisite, his delivery of a teen boy realising his sexuality in an unfriendly world was blindingly endearing and the story itself was a rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs of the high school experience.
To begin with, this story, very much a YA classic, seemed to be a light-hearted romp as Napalm Nick and his new fame-hungry friend Jesse elevate his social status into the clouds. But as the story progresses, we really get to see Piner strip away the layers to reveal something far deeper beneath. The laughs become a heartfelt cry, the comedy becomes tragedy and the beginning seamlessly paves the way for a beautiful ending. Nominated for 2014’s Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, this debut release from the Stateside troubadour has undoubtedly been one of the best reads of the year.
The thing that I found most compelling about this novel is its timeless quality. If each of the journal entries were not dated and there were fewer Fellini references and words in keeping with the period, this story could be from any age, even today. It’s at once both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring that the author has crafted such a well told tale that has been relevant for the forty years since its setting, right up to today, and sadly may continue its unsettling reality for years to come.
Piner’s brave portrayal of the love found and shared between Nick and Bobby, kept in secret and shaded from a judgemental world, makes this novel relevant and important, and I feel it should be introduced into a widespread reading frenzy so as to alert the intolerant of the effects of discrimination on our youth. The tragic ending acts as a cautionary tale for what thousands of kids deal with daily throughout the world, and Piner, in glorious prose, has put into words the spirit of the struggling teen homosexual.
I loved this book, and I intend to pay it forward to every listening ear out there. I want to suggest it to all kids struggling to find, not only their true sexuality, but their true identity in the world today. I want to recommend it to parents trying to raise their kids on good morals and a foundation of acceptance and love. I want to recommend it to the masses, for this book is not one to be ignored and placed back into the stacks for later consideration. Despite its groovy time-stamp, My Life as a Myth is a tale without the constraints of time and Insight Out! are proud to introduce Huston Piner as the one to watch in the coming months.
To keep up to date with the author, check out their Goodreads page here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6582756.Huston_Piner
But other than that you will just have to wait and see what wonderful works will come next from the fantastic Huston Piner.