Author: Anthony De Sa
Rating: 2 stars
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is yet again one of those books that looks like it was designed to appeal to me, but falls flat in almost every way.
Antonio is an adolescent boy living in the Portuguese community of Toronto in the 70s. When another young Portuguese boy is found raped and murdered on the roof of a sex shop in Toronto’s seedy gay underbelly, Antonio becomes somewhat obsessed with the crime. He also has to deal with burgeoning confusions about his sexuality, strains in his parents’ marriage, and growing apart from his friends. His father uses him as a money grab, claiming that he is a saint and a healer to scam the religious community. And during all this, Antonio finds himself increasingly drawn to a mysterious 20-something white stranger who has moved into the neighborhood.
Sounds promising, right? The Portuguese community is given life through De Sa’s prose, but in the end learning about a new culture was about all I found of interest in the novel. It’s unfortunately a dull, tortured coming of age tale, obsessed with sex but not really saying anything new, with little structure or purpose. Things just happen in Kicking the Sky, and then similar things happen in different ways, and Antonio never seems to grow or learn from them. The real world may work this way, but fiction shouldn’t. Every adult in Antonio’s life uses him for their own purposes, but though he begins to understand this is happening he never does anything about it. In fact, for a first person narrator he is incredibly passive and kind of boring. Things happen to him, but I never was able to muster enough sympathy to care.
I have literally nothing original to say about this book that I haven’t already said about other books that left me feeling cold in the same way. So, here’s a list of things in Kicking the Sky.
Number of time Antonio talks about peeing: 13
Number of nipple references: 6
Number of animals that are graphically killed: 2
Number of times Antonio talks about dicks: 13
Number of people that die: 3
Number of times Antonio vomits: 2
Number of times Antonio spies on people having compromising/taboo sexual encounters: 4
It was the overwhelming preoccupation with sex that really got to me, in the end. I don’t consider myself prudish by any means, and I understand that by their very nature coming-of-age stories often deal with burgeoning sexuality. But very quickly it became the only focus of the book. Antonio is almost always thinking about sex, though he never once comes to any resolutions about his own sexual identity. He also turns into a creepy little voyeur, watching the adults around him having sex and saying nothing as one of his supposed best friends is pimped out and then raped. It was excessive, and disgusting, and I didn’t find anything of value in the story to offset the bad taste it left in my mouth.