Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Is the Great American Novel about landscaping? This is a half-joke that Mike Muñoz keeps telling himself… After high school he’s just kept at his job on a crew taking care of McMansions’ yards until he refuses to shovel shit. Fired and having to deal with his hard-drinking mom and her casual relationships. And there’s always that writing that he tells everyone he’s doing. Then, he finds an opening. An old acquaintance who is now in real estate gets him job with the promise of some money and maybe a couple lessons in upward mobility, laced with classism, racism, and a look how the world works.

This is a very good American novel… it touches on so many themes people are dealing with today. Money… a few hundred can feel like a million to some and to others it’s a couple bills off the wad of cash. Mike is learning how to negotiate… work, relationships, his own feelings against his own feelings. With the American Dream shimmering in there somewhere just out of reach.

Lawn Boy wanders/ meanders, but mostly he’s aimless… If this is the main character’s motivation then why did I keep reading? I had to find out if he’d figure out the blank jigsaw puzzle that reveals the path to success. The novel’s strength lies in the formation of Mike’s voice. It’s authentic and realistic. The crew calls him not a “real” Mexican, but to the affluent owners of the houses, he is just another brown person. It’s really Evison’s look at the poor underclass. The people who are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t see any way to get ahead.

I do want to address the negative reviews on Amazon and other sites. Lawn Boy contains a description of two young boys experimenting sexually. There’s a lot of ignorance or naiveté insinuated in the description. This book has been recently challenged at several schools, but has been reinstated.


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