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Book Review: The Namesake by Steven Parlato

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Steven Parlato’s The Namesake is an emotionally stimulating young adult novel that delves into the powerful topic of abuse. Using dry wit, incredible similes and metaphors, and a very thought-provoking storyline, Parlato introduces the reader to an original and unforgiving exploration of the teenage psyche.

Parlato lulls the reader into a false sense of security, making him/her think the story is cliched and predictable. But then, Parlato surprises the reader, leaving him/her as lonely, desperate, and confused as the protagonist himself.

The Namesake starts off slowly, introducing the reader to Evan, the protagonist. At first, Parlato shows what Evan’s life is like after his father’s suicide, just before his world takes on the roller-coaster quality that makes the novel unforgettable.

Evan is a genius, though at times the reader may question his intelligence. Then again, the emotional traumas his father’s secrets create are more than enough of a hindrance. As soon as Evan enters his father’s distraught world, the pacing of the book picks up and the writing style turns from quirky and at times sad, to mysterious and very scary.

Religion plays a major role in Parlato’s novel. Evan does not blindly follow his religion once he begins to learn the truth, but he does not lose his faith either. Instead, he does what any young, confused teenager may do: he questions and challenges it.

The character growth in The Namesake is tinted by the dark tone of the novel. Instead of Evan learning to accept the loss of his father, he is plagued by the depression that lived within his father’s heart. He grows as a character, but at a price. Evan faces judgment because of his differences, and even cringe-worthy embarrassment for his past.

Parlato explores the reality of suicide and the after-effects. Evan is confused, as anybody would be, but he is determined to find the truth, even if it ends up causing him more pain.

Parlato shows the reader that Evan’s obsession with finding out the truth is not the only important feature of the story, but that perhaps it is how Evan’s actions affect those around him. This point is made more poignant by Evan’s metaphorical suicide, which mimics his father’s actual suicide.

The Namesake is a novel full of chain-reactions caused by the lust for truth. Heartbreakingly real, and a harsh wake-up call, Parlato’s novel reminds the reader that everything on the surface may appear fine, but people are made of layers upon layers of life experience.

Parlato’s novel is a stimulating book for readers who enjoy contemporary fiction that touches on risky topics. The dark humor of The Namesake may appeal to others, as well.

The conclusion of The Namesake is jolting. The reader will think s/he has everything figured out by the concluding chapter, but yet again Parlato will blind him/her with the reality of Evan’s world.

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