Thursday, 02 January 2014 23:59

"Casting Shadows Everywhere" - LT Vargus

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In "Casting Shadows Everywhere," sixteen year old Jake, by his own account, is a pussy. Harassed, put-upon, and bullied since childhood, he has never stood up for himself; even when his insides urged him to do so.

His friends are limited to his cousin Nick, his would-be-protector whose twisted take on life begins to mold Jake. Beth is the sweet object of Jake's affection and Robert is his autistic schoolmate.

The tale is written as a diary-of-sorts. Through it we see how ineffective and unaffected Jake is. Even as his life becomes more chaotic, he remains disconnected from almost every action, as if he was an observer but not a participant. Whether it's his first kiss, or his finding a woman sleeping in the house he burglarizes, or eventually becoming a bully himself, most of his actions are punctuated with "ya know?" or a 'meh' type comment. The few times Jake claims to feel "alive" are typically the times we'd prefer that he not.

Change is inevitable and over the course of the book, as Nick-the-burglar becomes Jake's mentor, Jake begins to change. The bullied becomes the bully. The change is sadly fascinating and perhaps a bit ironic; Jake spends much of the book talking about how the brain works, how it sifts through information, how people process right and wrong, yet the lessons are lost on him. He reads the info; he doesn't apply it.

Jake isn't easy to care about partially because he doesn't care. Clearly he feels a fondness toward his two friends. But outside of that, he has passion for virtually nothing.

I wish I had known more around the "why's" of Jake's actions. He is reasonably attractive, he does well enough in sports, he's tall and strong enough to defend himself, and he's smart enough to take college courses. So what's up with him? The book hints that it's a lack of a role model, and I did wonder: Where in the HELL are the adults in this kid's world? There doesn't seem to be one who is active in his life. This includes his mom, who for unclear reasons, he doesn't respect. She merits no more than three or four entries in his journal.

Maybe she deserves it. Maybe her parenting skills were grossly lacking. The kid was slipping out every night to steal shit. Did he have no curfew? Was mom knocked out on Ambien? Or was she slinging hash at Mel's Diner, trying to provide a decent life for the two, and she didn't know what he was up to? We don't know; Jake never tells us.

Time passes, and one day Jake discovers that Nick is up to far more than just burglarizing homes. Jake sets out to resolve it. Yet as he tries, the disconnect between what Jake should do and what Jake does remains. To state it as Jake might, 'I'm not sure if the left side of his brain and the right side of his brain are communicating. Ya know?'

In the end, Jake learns some very powerful lessons about himself and what life is really about. I'm just not sure that he learned everything that he should have. But maybe that's what happens when you make life-altering decisions at sixteen years old. Or maybe you can't see clearly when you're "Casting Shadows Everywhere."

In her debut novel, L.T. Vargus has fashioned a modern day commentary about the repercussions of bullying, of controlling others, and of not loving one's self. It's a powerful theme; and the tale lingers long after you turn the last page.

Last modified on Friday, 03 January 2014 00:39
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