Title: Sucktown, Alaska
Author: Craig Dirkes
Format: Digital ARC, 350 pages
Publication Details: May 1st 2017 by Switch Press
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
Looking for a great adventure, eighteen-year-old Eddie Ashford stumbles into a job as a reporter in tiny Kusko, Alaska, a place so remote that bush planes are the only way in or out.
When the job and the place, which sits on the flat and desolate tundra and not in the stunning mountains he’d imagined, turn out to be disappointments, Eddie thinks maybe it’s time to bail.
But three things tie him there: 1) Taylor, a girl who might be a little too pretty and a little too smart for him; 2) Finn, a new friend who is an all-around good dude but also happens to be a small-time pot dealer; and 3) Eddie’s empty wallet, which means he can’t afford to transport himself and his possessions back to civilization.
Despite every good-guy instinct inside him, Eddie flirts with trouble as he tries to find a way home.
As most of you already know contemporary YA is usually a little bit marmite for me. I either really dislike it, or I love it. Sucktown, Alaska has ruined that theory because I thought it was good, but not great.
The story is about Eddie. A seventeen year old who has flunked out of college for partying too hard. To make amends he has bagged himself a job as a journalist in the remote village of Kusko, Alaska, to prove that he can apply himself. If he can stick it out for a year, he will be allowed to continue his studies.
I was drawn to this book because it’s not often I read YA books from the male perspective, well, not straight males anyway. And I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, there’s something just so raw about it that appeals to me.
I think Sucktown, Alaska has a lot going for it. The thing I enjoyed the most was the realness of it. Eddie is a real guy. He’s a man’s man, if not an immature one. At times he can be vulgar and obnoxious like any teenage boy. He has moments of sweetness and loyalty but he’s also monumentally stupid, and objectifies women.
Nothing is sugarcoated in Eddie’s story. Alaska is portrayed as a harsh place to live, especially in winter. I wasn’t aware of the state’s tribulations with alcohol and drug abuse, and in turn the prolific amount of bootleggers, and the story inspired me to learn more about the place instead of just thinking it looks pretty. Good stories do that, inspire.
However, on the whole I was a little bit disappointed with the story. It had a gentle pace and I felt like more needed to happen. Eddie starts selling drugs about half way through the story and considering that seemed the main plot point I wondered why it took so long to get to it.
I feel like there were things missing. Relationships, mainly. Eddie’s infatuation with Taylor was pretty superficial, and I thought more should have come out of his relationship with his boss/landlord. The only really meaningful relationship was between Eddie and the husky dogs, and maybe his drug-dealer friend.
I do think Sucktown, Alaska is a good coming-of-age tale for young male readers. I don’t think there’s enough of that. We see Eddie grow up a lot during his time in Kusko. He’s pretty hard on himself about his past discretions and needs to let that go. He’s a good guy deep down, he just needs to learn how to care about himself and other people, and by the end he’s done just that.
Overall, there was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but it needed an extra injection of action or romance to make it a must-read. I’m surprised by how many bad reviews there are on Goodreads, and I urge you to not be put off by them. I guess some people can’t handle the sometimes vulgar mind of a seventeen year old boy, but I for one think that was what made it a realistic story.