JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James’s friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways.
Set in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wilson's searching debut maintains a level of urgency as it explores the bonds between two brothers. As the novel begins, high school junior Alex's half-hearted suicide attempt (he swallowed a bottle of household cleaner at a party) has left him ostracized at school and bewildered his parents; meanwhile, his older brother, James, a popular athlete, feels angry and ashamed. But James isn't all that connected to his emotions: when first met, he's in a motel room with a girlfriend and has had sex with her, but is "filled with a strong desire to be rid of her, for good. It always happens." Wilson follows the two brothers as the school year unfolds, Alex growing into himself and falling in love with one of James's male friends, James discovering compassion and acting on it. Well-observed details shore up the Southern backdrop, important for the social networks that bind the characters and inform their actions. Insightfully evoked, Alex, James and their friends will leave a lasting impression on readers. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.