Title: Black Heart Boys’ Choir
Author: Curtis M. Lawson
Release date: September 8, 2019
I remember pre-ordering this and being excited to read it. Like so many others, my TBR is insane, but now I wish I would’ve dove in right away. I’ve read a few of Lawson’s releases, but frankly, this is a completely different level. How this book wasn’t nominated for a ton of dark fiction/speculative fiction awards is beyond me and truthfully, it’s frustrating when you see a book this stunning seemingly slip through and not get the recognition is deserves.
The story is brutal, the characters are flawed, real and relatable. You know these kids, you went to school with these kids. We were all one of these, whether the outcasts, the glee club or the jock group. And ultimately, this story feels completely bonkers but also completely realistic and topical.
What I liked: The story follows former rich kid, Lucien as he finds himself in public school. His father was a renowned classical musician, who took his life and as a result, his schooling was no longer being paid for.
He feels abandoned. By his father, his drug-addicted mother, and his former school. He’s angry. Time and time again, the adults have failed him.
It’s this anger that ultimately drives him throughout the actions within the book.
He’s made a friend, someone who shares his interests. But it’s not until Lucien discovers an unfinished piece of music his father was composing with another musician that his anger is joined by obsession.
Lawson does a truly amazing job of crafting an all-too-real high school. You can practically smell the B.O. and Axe body spray. It’s been almost 25 years since I graduated from Nakusp Secondary School, but reading this brought me back to when I was walking the hallway – as a bully, a jock, an outcast and a loner. High school for so many of us was a strange and odd time in our lives, and because of this you can really understand the ‘why’ of Lucien’s plight.
I really loved how over the course of the novel you can see Lucien’s transition. Almost like Gollum finding his precious and while those dream like occurrences at first can feel odd and out of place, his experiences with the black unicorn were truly phenomenal.
The ending to this may come off as extreme, but really, was there any other ending? Was this going to have a different conclusion? I don’t think so and Lawson finished it off perfectly and exactly how it should’ve ended.
What I didn’t like: It’s odd, because I thought this novel was perfect, but I wished we would’ve had a bit more push back from J.C. and Asher when things really take a turn, especially with Leo. I won’t say more, spoilers and all, but they just seemed to accept that obsession of the Madrigal and go with it.
Why you should buy this: This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and one of the best books featuring music that I’ve ever read. I’ve heard varying opinions on S.T. Joshi, but his foreword was spot on when he stated that you’ll feel the music while reading, which seems impossible but is actual fact. You could feel the hum and vibration throughout.
Lawson has done such an amazing job, more of you absolutely need to read this outstanding piece of dark fiction. Curtis has something truly special here and I’m angry and sad and ashamed that I didn’t get to this sooner to sing it’s praises and that this book hasn’t had its praises sung from the mountain tops. This book will leave you wrecked. Sad. Angry. Frustrated. Everything you want a book to make you feel.
Outstanding work. Outstanding.