Huge by James W. Fuerst (2009)

They started me on defense for the last two games, but other players and coaches complained because it seemed that every time I tackled somebody, they got carted off the field. It happened in practice, too, with my own teammate, and that’s how I got pegged as some kind of maniac. But it was all bullshit. In football, you either hit somebody or get hit. Period. And it wasn’t my fault that a lot of kids still cringed at the first hint of contact. It just meant I was going to have to listen to Coach rose talk to me like an idiot all season. But at least he didn’t call me Genie (p 36-37).

hugeEveryone seems out to label Eugene “Huge” Smalls. He’s a genius, according to his test results. The teachers call him ‘special’ when he skips a grade. His grandmother is dead set on turning him into a detective. He’s violent, just ask his football coach or Mrs. Witherspoon, the art teacher he punched. He even considers himself a bad boy.

Not that he approves. In fact, he disapproves, but seems unable to stop or control himself.

When someone defaces the sign at his grandmother’s retirement home, Huge has his first real case to solve and a client, his grandmother. Figuring out who painted “retarted” over “retirement” leads Huge all over town and into scrapes. His ability to deduce answers based on the slimmest evidence shows his Sherlock-like powers of observation and logical thinking. But he’s also part Jude Law as Watson, the muscle behind the brains.

Huge has an anger management problem. He has so many thoughts, racing through his mind, clammoring to be spoken, that he often finds he hasn’t said a thing. So he’s teased. He becomes a social outcast. And then the rage takes over and it’s like an explosion.

There is so much packed into this deceptively slim paperback. All of it is brilliant.

Set in the 1980s in New Jersey, Fuerst nails the environment, the kids, and the adults. Huge’s narrative has veracity, depth and layers. His character is tragic and beautiful. You will root for him even as he is flubbing up.

I couldn’t put this down.

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