Heavy Metal A Novel That Hits Home for Gen-Xers
By Matt Bayman
In his debut novel, Heavy Metal, Tipp City native Andrew Bourelle crafts a gripping story that will hit home for anyone who grew up in a small town in the 1980s and 90s.
Published by Autumn House Press and available on Feb. 1, Heavy Metal covers nine days in the life of Danny, a sensitive, quiet high school freshmen who recently lost his mother to suicide, whose distant father is drowning this loss with alcohol, and whose older brother, Craig, may be the only light in his otherwise dimming world. The problem is, Craig is battling demons of his own and his struggles are about to spill onto the stage of a small town and cast Danny in the starring role, willing or not.
Using brilliant descriptions, insightful dialogue, dark metaphors, laugh-out-loud humor and, best of all, non-stop suspense, Heavy Metal is a page-turner that has the reader rooting for the main character right up to the very end. It's also a book that will take many readers down memory lane.
As a 1993 graduate of Tippecanoe High School, Bourelle is able to capture a moment in time that most Generation Xers will recognize. His young characters wear jean jackets, watch MTV, make homemade cassettes of their favorite songs, eat pizza squares at school lunch and drive Novas, Fieros and Camaros. They argue about which band is the greatest of all time - AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden, or that new one, Guns N' Roses.
While the setting for Heavy Metal could be any small town in the Midwest, local readers will certainly find its descriptions familiar.
After a tense opening scene that sets the tone for the rest of the book, the reader joins the main character and his brother on a Saturday night in a place where, "street lights from the BP and the Taco Bell glow" and "the IGA sign is dark." The town also has a levee, a river where kids sometimes have parties, an American Legion and a section of road on the outskirts of town known as Dead Man's Curve. It's a place where everybody knows each other - and each other's business. A town where the more affluent kids seem to catch more breaks than those from the working class, all of which adds to the weight and drama of the story.
Speaking of weight, Bourelle's metaphorical use of "heavy metal" in the novel is genius. In each chapter, bits of metal protrude from the pages. They might appear as heavy metal songs that the characters listen to, or in the descriptions of handguns and other weapons that haunt the pages of the book. Some of the more jaded characters goof off at a junkyard filled with twisted metal, and an unlatched metal safe in the novel carries considerable weight. Examples abound.
But while Heavy Metal deals with many dark subjects, it's also a story about brothers, bonds, first loves and even hope. All of these themes add up to a brilliant story that is both entertaining and captivating.
For those of us from Generation X, Heavy Metal is a time capsule filled with memories that, without reading the book, might have been lost forever. It's a real chance to visit the past and, ultimately, a therapeutic experience that might just lift some of the weight we now carry as adults, even if only for a little while.
To order a copy of Heavy Metal for $17,95, visit www.autumnhouse.org/product/heavy-metal-andrew-bourelle.
Although Heavy Metal is Bourelle's first novel, he is an accomplished writer of short stories. In fact, Heavy Metal was developed from one of his earlier writings. He has collaborated with James Patterson on a short thriller called The Pretender, won numerous awards for his writing and recently worked with his brother, artist Edward Bourelle, on a short comic titled "My Mermaid," which is scheduled for publication in The Florida Review.
Bourelle currently teaches writing at the University of New Mexico and lives with his wife and two children in Albuquerque.
(Image of book and photograph of the author courtesy of
Autumn House Press)
For more information on Bourelle, visit www.andrewbourelle.com.