A coming of age novel that’s hauntingly real and furiously fierce. David Small’s graphic novel packs an emotional punch as 13-year-old Russell Pruitt navigates a cruel world in the mercy of strangers.
Home After Dark
by David Small
Set in 1950s, Home After Dark is the story of a teen boy who will go through the most tumultuous changes and challenges of adolescence. Soon after his mother left them for another man, his father upended their lives for the greener pastures of California. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Russell’s father soon left him on his own, living in the mercy of a Chinese couple that generously took him in.
In California, he would meet the people that will eventually shape his life and dictate the course for which he would take.
His first friend was a boy who lived with his grandma. He was kind to him, accepted him when other kids shun him. He was also generous. But his friendship came with a price. One that Russell couldn’t quite grasp at such a young age. Needless to say, the friendship didn’t last.
Russell then finds himself in the company of three boys who were, for the most part, good company. But there’s always going to be bad seeds. They bullied a boy who was a loner. One of the boys planted evidence that would eventually lead to him committing suicide.
Life in California wasn’t how it’s cracked up to be. His relationship with his father went from bad to worse. His drinking accelerated, leading to his being let go at his job. In the end, he too abandoned Russell. The friends that he thought were genuine turned out to be false. And the one friend that he thought wanted something from him that he couldn’t give because he doesn’t understand killed himself. He stole from the only people who were willing to take him in when he was all alone in the world. Life for him wasn’t only hard, it was confusing, and sometimes, unforgiving.
Home After Dark is a graphic novel so the effect can be limited at times. I find myself staring at the series of drawings as I try to decipher the extent of emotional impact the author is trying to convey. But still, I found this book to be easy to read, with a protagonist that’s equally easy to empathize. It’s a coming of age novel and boy, did Russell go through so much. It’s also a dark novel but somehow, someway, it wasn’t nearly as hopeless. David Smalls captured the despairing side of adolescence, but italso offered hope. Hope that he will eventually grow out of it – get pass it. It only depends on how he would take the life lessons each day gave him.