Rating: 5 stars out of 5
High school senior Jim Wallace faces the approaching Christmas holidays with a mixture of hope and dread. To escape the pressure, he imagines the woods and marshes around his home to be an independent country, Wallaçonia, where he is accepted and recognized as the “upright and sterling” young man people expect him to be. And he may make it yet: this could be the week he and his girlfriend Liz finally have sex, putting to rest any lingering doubts Jim has about what kind of guy he really is. But then Pat Baxter, a neighbor, asks him to help out in his bookstore during the holiday rush, and Jim starts making new connections – and rediscovering an old one. Will Jim leave the sanctuary of his imaginary Wallaçonia for the real world? And which real world will it be, the one with Liz or the one that beckons from the bookstore?
Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a beautifully written story of one man’s journey to self awareness about his sexuality and adulthood. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy journey. Its fraught with the perils of expectations, the hurdles of high school cliques, hormones and feelings of inadequacies and so much more.
Sometimes I’m amazed anyone makes it out of the high school environment intact, even more a LGBTQIA youth questioning their sexuality. The stresses and pressures from everyone, from parents to peer groups to society is intense. It’s through David Pratt’s character of Jim Wallace that we watch Jim and others around him try to navigate through rough waters to get safely onto the path that will lead out of town to college. Not all will make it.
Jim’s path is strewn with rocks and holes, some of which he digs himself. Why? Sigh. Because he’s young, confused, scared, questioning…check all those boxes and create some more. Nor are his actions ones that you will like, understand perhaps, but not like. Fear and confusion can make you do some downright mean things, which Jim himself will later acknowledge. Every character here, from Jim to Liz, to Pat and more are layered, real people. They are recognizable. And that makes all their actions, relationships and interactions feel not only authentic but able to let us so deeply into their lives that we can hurt for them in their stumbling youth, wishing we could in some ways help make their paths easier even knowing, that’s not possible.
The narrative flows smoothly, I was swept so easily into Jim’s story, caught up in his life and that of those around him, not coming out until the book was done. It made me think of all the young people it represents, past, present and probably future. In some things, high school never changes.
Wallaçonia by David Pratt is a complex and gorgeous coming out and coming of age story. It will stay with you long after you’ve put the book or Kindle down. It’s one I highly recommend.
Cover art is touching and matches the character and story.
Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published March 25th 2017 by Beautiful Dreamer Press