The Tragic Age

The Tragic Age: A Novel - Stephen Metcalfe

Disclaimer: I rec'd a copy of this book through the Goodreads, First Reads program.


From Goodreads: This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at.  The tragic age. 


I am a sucker for a good coming of age novel of all kinds. I know that it's going to be a book that is going to draw me in on an emotional level and I absolutely love when a book can do that...especially when I find myself completely invested. 


The Tragic Age is one of those books. It is also not one of those books. You think you know what's going to happen. You think you're going to understand Billy but you don't. Billy is the ultimate unreliable character. You can never be sure what is real and what is manipulated. And that is what makes The Tragic Age stand out from the more well known coming of age novels, The Catcher in the Rye and Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is easy to see where the comparisons are's clear that at least a tiny bit of those books have influenced the story and of Billy but The Tragic Age is ultimately, it's own unique story.


I know the year is still young, but it was probably my favorite read of the year. So far there is one other book contending for that title (also a YA  coming of age) but in terms of being a fresh, unique experience...this is the winner.