Fitz by Mick Cochrane was one of many teen fiction ARCs stacked on my desk at the end of 2012 that I was wading through, and I might have passed it by if I hadn’t opened the book to the first sentence. It said, “On a cool morning in late May, Fitz is standing in the alley behind his father’s apartment in St. Paul.” Most readers probably wonder about Fitz’s relationship to his father when they read that, but my attention was drawn to the mention of St. Paul. A quick scan down the page revealed—with mention of “Summit Hill District” and “F. Scott Fitzgerald”–that it was, in fact, St. Paul, Minnesota, and I had to read the book. After all, I lived in St. Paul for several years, and I love the Summit Hill District. Though I had to laugh at Fitz’s opinion of the neighborhood: “It’s full of yuppies.” I don’t know if I agree with that, but I can imagine a 15 year-old boy thinking that.
For those without a personal connection to the setting, it doesn’t take long before the big reveal that will have you on the edge of your seat for the duration of the novel. Fitz is waiting outside his father’s apartment with a gun. “. . . he’s carrying a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver in the waistband of his jeans and a gutful of confusion, a lifetime’s resentment in his heart. A gnawing hunger for a father he’s never known.” This is in the first five pages of the book. In the next hundred and seventy pages, we follow Fitz and his father all around the city as they spend a day getting to know each other with a gun between them.
It’s a fast moving story that will likely have appeal to some of your more reluctant readers. It is also a thoughtful look at a boy desperate enough for his father’s attention that he is willing to threaten him with a gun. As Fitz’s father tells his story, we see that there are no easy answers. This short novel is both suspenseful and poignant. Highly recommended for a complex look at divorce and father-son relationships.