Kaden Norris's life is shattered when his older brother-- his best friend and hero-- is killed in Iraq. He decides to fulfill his brother's last wishes left to him in a letter, urging him to break out of his sheltered existence, to read Chuck Pahaluniak, and to go to San Francisco and visit his cousin, James Morgan.
James is a popular author, and a notorious bad-boy with a major cocaine addiction. Kaden's visit to San Francisco quickly turns from an exciting adventure to a wild disaster as he experiences things he's never dreamed of and uncovers secrets about his family that alter his world forever.
Fifteen-year-old Kaden's beloved older brother is killed in Iraq; his dying wish is for Kaden to see Chuck Palahniuk read in San Francisco. Kaden travels there from Iowa to stay with his wild 30-something cousin James. Immediately, Kaden is willingly drawn into a world of apathy, drugs, and outrageousness ("I'm already in complete awe of the city. All this beauty in one single dump pad. All this coolness. This radical debauchery.... Getting wasted all day. Listening to records in rooms with beautiful girls"). James spends most of his time neglecting Kaden, cheating on his gorgeous girlfriend, Caralie (whom Kaden falls for), and getting wasted himself, resulting in Kaden's navigating the city and its inhabitants alone. But when family truths surface, Kaden is forced into adulthood (getting beat up, trying coke, and repeatedly cheating on his girlfriend back in Iowa contribute, too). As explicit and visceral as Myers's Exit Here, if not as hopeless, this intense coming-of-age novel illuminates some of the pain surrounding death and loss of innocence, but personal revelations mostly fade amid the story's grittier details. Ages 14 up.