Companion to Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me
By Mary McKinley
Available now from Kensington
So many of the questions I had when reading THE HURT PATROL where answered when I realized it was a companion novella to a book I hadn't read, set during that book. I honestly don't know how I manage to select this book for review without knowing that fact, but manage I did.
Even knowing that, I think some aspects could be improved. The meat of THE HURT PATROL is layered between two frames. The outermost layer is that Rusty is writing this down as an essay for her teacher. The next layer is that Beau is telling Rusty this story in the car, on their way to Forks, Washington (AKA Twilight town). Both of these layers add little to the story. It neither comes across like someone writing an essay nor someone speaking about their experiences. I assume Mary McKinley was trying to make it sound like BEAU, LEE, THE BOMB, & ME. Given that this is a companion novella, however, I think she could've cut to the chase and just put it in Beau's point of view.
THE HURT PATROL is essentially one long, somewhat meandering flashback. It covers Beau's past during his parents' divorce, figuring out that he's gay, losing his best friends, coming to find confidence in himself with the worst Boy Scout ever, and getting gay bashed. It's certainly an ambitious novella. Unfortunately, I can see why it didn't make the main book. Beau's story is a touch shapeless, particularly when shoved into the frame of a road trip that goes nowhere because it happens in another book.
There are glimmers of greatness. Beau's dad is a piece of work, admonishing his son not to be a sissy and otherwise berating him and his mother. Yet, Beau still sides with him in a pivotal fight, unable to keep himself from seeking his father's approval and love. It's an excellent glimpse of how complicated families can be, and how children can still unconditionally love parents who don't deserve it.
I think fans of BEAU, LEE, THE BOMB, & ME will probably enjoy THE HURT PATROL, especially if Beau is their favorite character and they want to know more about him. It was a bit hard for me to get into without that knowledge, since it's mostly a character sketch. It wasn't terrible, but I just kept feeling as I was reading that I was missing something big, something that would explain how this story was structured. And I guess I was.