★★★★ In The Unremarkable Circumstances of Inmate 17656-090 by Sage Webb, the (unnamed) main character and his sister were brutally abused as children by their mother’s boyfriends. Beaten and sexually abused, the pair grow up to be emotionally scarred. At age seventeen, the older sister Sara has her first child, and over the years has two more. The main character helps out his sister and her children for a while, then sets off to start his life over again on the Texas Gulf Coast. He develops a habit of looking at abused children on his computer and masturbating—somehow, the photographs make him feel less isolated by his own childhood experiences. While in Texas, he meets Blair and Grayson, who live together on a small boat. The three of them become close friends, and a large portion of the book tells of their friendship and their days spent together. Eventually, men from a government agency discover one of the computers that the main character has been using to look at child pornography, and—because of the illegal material on it—he is taken to jail.
The book develops the characters wonderfully, telling about the daily lives, beliefs, and personalities of the main character, Blair, and Grayson. Their friendship is the kind of bond that anyone would want in their own lives. The darker subject matter in the book certainly makes it less palatable, but it is still an intriguing story that is captivating and described in extreme skill. At times heartbreaking and at others hopeful, this book stands out by discussing topics that most people would rather pretend don’t exist in today’s society.