At the beginning of Phil LaMarche’s American Youth, a teenager accidentally kills his brother with a friend’s rifle. The question of blame seems straightforward; however, the friend, Ted, had loaded the rifle and left the brothers to mess around, despite knowing that they weren’t used to guns. Ted’s mother is sufficiently concerned to insist that her son deny any involvement.
This impressive book, set in a New England town, examines first Ted’s conscience. Ted is an essentially good sort who, although not saintly in behaviour, has a well-developed sense of morality which cannot smooth over the lie he is forced to tell. He begins to suffer, and resorts to self-harm