Holy cow it’s been a while since I posted a review. Can’t promise that this won’t happen again soon, finals start next Tuesday and will be devouring my time, energy, and possibly will to live. Since you guys have been so good as to put up with me though, I’ve finally got that one review written. More should be coming between now and the heat death of the sun, so stick around!
Clay Cove lives with the memory of the day he was viciously attacked and left for dead. He remembers nearly bleeding out and the helpless feeling of jumping at shadows afterward. Clay knows that no matter how dependable the rest of his gang, the Locals, are he can’t count on them to be there every time something goes down. Violence is increasing as the Hakers and the Shawns push into the Locals’ turf. Old friends are becoming suspect, family is under attack, and the only thing Clay can count on is that it can always get worse.
It Can Always Get Worse by Shandy L. Kurth is very much like one of those books that my high school made us read in 9th grade English. It’s trying to say something but falling flat on all sides. It’s not about the gang violence, though that takes up most of the plot, and it isn’t character driven enough to be about making it in a violent world with the family you choose. It isn’t about trying to find something better, though that gets lip service. The Locals stay stubbornly in their turf while getting pounded on all sides by enemies that seem to only want to watch the world burn.
It Can Always Get Worse is the safe for work version of a gang story written from the other side of the camera. This is the kind of thing you walk away from a well meaning college program about how we are failing today’s youth and then write while feeling bad about being a middle class college kid. It’s white washed up one side and down the other, I can’t remember any characters who aren’t Caucasian. It’s got the emotional impact of wet cement, and it really loses what could have been some good moments because of that. These characters don’t talk like real people much less kids from the bad part of town, no they talk like the kids from the suburbs who’re trying to be deep but just falling into broken prose. My biggest non-writing problem with this is how very outside looking in it is, that other side of the camera thing, there is no visceral feeling that anyone could die at any moment. It feels like a high school play version of The Outsiders put to paper again.
That said, there were some moments that could have been really good if more had been done with them. Kurth really needs to work on amping up the emotion of a scene rather than navel gazing about how terrible the world it or describing her characters. She could also probably do with a better editor or a more critical publisher. I wouldn’t read her next book or the one after it, but if she made it to a fourth book or got published by one of the big name publishers I’d take another look. In and of itself, It Can Always Get Worse earns a two out of five and some grousing over how bland it was.