★★★★ Dan, who recently graduated from college, is lost, anxious, and depressed. With no commitments tying him down, Dan joins his friend Ian on a road trip westward, in the hopes of finding inspiration and ultimately reaching Mexico. The two friends set out from Buffalo, New York with little money, and the long hours behind the wheel are spent listening to music, smoking weed, and bickering. They stop at friends’ houses along the way to party and crash on couches. Dan’s internal dialogue is dark. He constantly belittles himself, questioning his worth. In addition to his emotional stress, Dan also experiences constant physical pain. He has a condition (the characteristics of which point to colitis, although it is never explicitly stated) that makes bowel movements painful. Dan describes finding blood in his stool and he is terrified of going to the bathroom, one of the many things that Ian teases him about. After weeks of driving and partying have taken their strain on the two men’s friendship, the duo must decide whether to return home or to carry on toward Mexico.
The Summer of Crud is not a light read. The scenes set by author Jonathan LaPoma are raw and readers are sure to cringe at Dan and Ian’s filthy living conditions and encounters with hard drugs. LaPoma paints a gritty picture of struggling young adults, living moment to moment, overwhelmed by adulthood. Dan’s demons are present on every page and readers that suffer from anxiety or depression are likely to connect with his struggle for belonging and self-acceptance. At one moment, Dan reflects on high functioning individuals unlike himself: “[I felt] so out of place around real adults who had real jobs and wore real adult clothes and knew exactly what they’d be eating for dinner that night and where all their utensils were and could clean those utensils and put them away, then read a book before bed without wanting to blow out their fucking brains.” Dan’s inner voice speaks loudly to the difficulty many face on life’s winding road.
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