Effed Up by Russ Woody

EFFED UP CoverEffed Up by Russ Woody is a first-person narrative starring Robert and his dysfunctional family. The reader enters Robert’s life as he is getting up-close-and-personal with a woman named Becky, who is apparently turned on by trauma scenes. While Robert is trying to block out the juxtaposition of pleasure and disgust and enjoy the moment, he receives a phone call that his mother is in the hospital. From Robert’s reaction and subsequent actions, it is clear that he despises his mother and is not close with his siblings or his father.

Through present moments and past recollections, Robert paints a clear picture of his effed up family. His mother is a manipulative, psychopath, his brother is a loser stoner, and his sister is a raging alcoholic. The only sane one, he thinks, is his father, who he doesn’t even know well because his mother never allowed the spotlight to be shown on anyone but herself. In the wake of tragedy, Robert must piece together the kind of man his father was, thus learning more about himself.

Effed Up is so humorous, it will make the reader laugh out loud. The characters are so absurd, so flawed, and yet so real, that the story is both completely fantastical and chillingly realistic.  As much as the reader will laugh, she will also cry—tears of outrage, sorrow, frustration (at how dense Robert’s family is about their ridiculousness), and finally, joy. There are aspects of the characters and moments in the family dynamic that are guaranteed to ring true to everyone at one point or another.

While situations may be drastically different, the emotions Woody invokes about love, family, and friends will resonate with readers from all walks of life. In the end, the story is about one man’s journey to finding himself and learning what true family means.

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Junior by Ray Donley

Junior is a novel written with an extremely clever concept: it is formatted as the journal of one man and yet contains meticulous details about a future society – almost a historical textbook of how the world could turn out if certain events fell into place.  Donley begins the book with a foreword supposedly penned by a professor at the University of Texas; the foreword tells the reader that millions of people have read and studied this book which gives it a sense of importance and, since this work is actually fictional, creates an atmosphere of humor.  Donley has also added footnotes to the “journal” which allude to other scholarly works about Junior and facts about the world in general.  The entire format of the novel is written as a sort of satire that pokes fun at what society deems as important and what is covered in the media.

According to the journal, Joshua Jennings, Jr. is wanted worldwide for mass murder; he is charged with blowing up the President, Vice President, and his father on a reservation in New Mexico.  Junior is on the run from law enforcement because he knows that he did not kill his father and he wants to find out who did.  Not long into his run from the law, it becomes clear that Junior’s father Senior is orchestrating events even beyond the grave; he sends mysterious emails and makes sure Junior meets up with the right people – he even insinuates that he knew about the explosion ahead of time or actually caused it to happen.

Throughout the course of the “journal,” the reader learns not only about Senior’s accomplishments, but also about society in general.  For example, in this future world, marijuana has been legalized, the Jews are living in North Dakota, and Oprah Winfrey is the Secretary of State.  As Junior steps into his role as Man on the Run, he angers religious groups and politicians alike and readers gain insight into the human condition as a result.

Although this novel is cleverly formatted and addresses important societal issues, the plot itself can become rather tedious for some readers.  In the beginning, the reader is interested about this possible society and all its members. He also wishes to solve the mystery of who caused the explosion.  However, the middle of the book is almost a blur of names and historical events with a dash of humor thrown in every couple of pages.  If the reader can overcome this monotony and continue to the end, almost every person and event ties together in a satisfying conclusion; this monotony also makes literary sense, as it mimics the monotony that Junior must be feeling being in seclusion for years.

When all is said and done, Junior is a witty commentary on society and what we deem important; the reader travels a world in which fast food restaurants and celebrities own everything and religious tensions dictate such things as wars and television programs.  It is interesting to see which of humanity’s faults cause major global issues and which faults have birthed something new.  Junior will definitely exercise readers’ brains!

Junior

Ray Donley

Copyright 2012