A mesmerizing, “fiery page-turner” (Entertainment Weekly) about a teenage boy on summer vacation who makes an irrevocable mistake and becomes trapped in a spiral of guilt and desire—in the tradition of Alice McDermott’s That Night and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars.
Oscar is dead because I watched him die and did nothing.
Seventeen-year-old Leo is sitting in an empty playground at night, listening to the sound of partying and pop music filtering in from the beach, when he sees another, more popular boy strangle himself with the ropes of the swings. Then, in a panic, Leo drags him to the beach and buries him.
Over the next twenty-four hours, Leo wanders around the campsite like a sleepwalker, haunted by guilt and fear, and distracted by his desire for a girl named Luce. Meanwhile, the teenage summer rituals continue all around him—the fighting and flirting, the smell of salt and sunscreen, the tinny announcements from the loudspeaker, and above all, the crushing, relentless heat...
A prizewinning sensation in France and now stunningly translated by Sam Taylor, Heatwave is Victor Jestin’s “charged and chilling” (Publishers Weekly) debut novel—a searing portrait of adolescent desire and recklessness, and secrets too big to keep.
*Originally published in France under the title La Chaleur.
Jestin's charged and chilling debut turns on a stifling vacation that descends from purgatory into a nightmarish inferno. Near the end of 17-year-old narrator Leonard's stay with his family at a beachside resort in southwest France, Leonard sees another boy, Oscar, attempting to strangle himself on a swing set. Rather than help, Leonard watches him die, then, in a panic, buries the body in the dunes. ("I hadn't made many stupid mistakes in my 17 years of life," Leonard reflects in a typical understatement.) There are hints of Leonard's jealousy over a girl, Luce, whom he'd recently seen kissing Oscar, but Leonard's callousness is best understood as existential angst: "I had accumulated my hate and anger slowly, patiently." Leonard then listens to a friend's libidinous monologues; embarks on a romance with Luce, who is inexplicably drawn to Leonard's sullen reticence; and rails against the oppressive atmosphere of enforced fun. As Leonard wrestles over whether to come clean, Jestin nicely juxtaposes the eerie fact of the buried body against the round-the-clock party atmosphere at the resort: "It was all too bright, too cheerful, for someone to be dead." Though not the subtlest portrait of adolescence, Leonard's curt voice is distinctly effective. Jestin's memorable vision of a crushing landscape will linger with the reader.