“Ten Thousand Saints” is a coming of age story that’s close enough to “A Visit from the Goon Squad” but not as amazingly brilliant and a tiny bit like “Freedom” but luckily devoid of Franzen’s annoying self-importance.
If you grew up in the 80’s somewhere on the East Coast of the US, you will be able to relate to this book, especially if your growing up involved drugs, teenage pregnancies, overdosing, AIDS, rock bands or Straight Edge movement. If your adolescence was more conservative you can read this novel to learn all about what you missed out on.
In the end it doesn’t matter what you did as a teenager. It’s just a phase of our lives when we think everything is so bloody important but eventually we get over it, just like did the characters from ‘Ten Thousand Saints’ and just like did the whole city. New York got over the 80’s, the punk rock, the needles and crack vials.
The book’s strength comes from its portrait of the Straight Edge movement which on the surface seemed really different from anything that teenagers did but in reality it has the same extreme and obsessive quality to it that everything else that teenagers so often abandon themselves to. It’s just another way to rebel against your parents, because let’s remember that we’re talking about the generation who had hippies for parents.
Reading about sixteen year old Teddy’s death and its effect on lives of three teenagers is sure to cure your from any nostalgia you might’ve had about your high school times, because being a teenager is a dirty and emotional affair.
The writing in “Ten Thousand Saints” is very cinematographic when it comes to describe the scene but occasionally fails to create the atmosphere, so the New York we see is more of a youtube video than a truly detailed picture. Yet, if the subject interests you, I’d certainly recommend it. It is not a bad effort for a debut and it seems that Henderson might have more talent than it shows here, so look out for her in the future.