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Lyda Morehouse reviews "Jagged Glass Ballet" by Brendan Detzner

It’s a cliched skiffy start. A young man wakes up in a sparsely adorned room with no memory of who he is or how he got there. What follows next in Brendan Detzner’s _The Jagged Glass Ballet_, however, diverges wildly from the usual.

For one, our hero is not alone. Armed gunmen appear, chasing a boy who disappears behind a grate into a rabbit warren of ductwork. Our hero to pretends to be asleep, and the gunmen pass him by. In the morning, he wakes up to discover a world full of young, creative minds. They encourage him to pick a name for himself, and he chooses “Dragon Plastic.”

For the rest of the book, Dragon explores “the world,” which consists of teenage artisans of all flavors: poets, musicians, sculptors, writers, and more, who trade the things they produce for food (and apparently more materials) which magically appears at the appointed hour. Though Dragon could be content with his new friends, the boy who fled the black suits visits Dragon nightly. From him, Dragon begins to learn about the literal and figurative underbelly of his world—which, he begins to expect, is not part of this world at all.

What was fun about this book for me was not the mystery of who or where Dragon was, but the other people who made up this strange teenage fantasy land. I was especially fond of the character “Crazy” and the rest of Dragon’s set. And, the times in which Dragon was wandering around his world and exploring all the different nests of poets and musicians, I felt that Detzner’s vision was strongest.

It was clear to me, as a reader, fairly early on, that Dragon’s world was a kind of clearinghouse or brain trust of talent. I was a little creeped out, however, by the fact that everyone in the world was stuck in fourteen year-old bodies. I wasn’t sure what Detzner was saying about talent. Does it only belong to the young? And, if so, why not young adults? Why teenagers, who are often so torn up by hormones? Granted, it became obvious through the story that the bodies that people had were very ethereal, but the fact that they were teens was brought up more than once.

This became especially uncomfortable for me as a reader when it seemed as though Dragon and his girlfriend, Scraps, might end up in bed together. Luckily, they didn’t. Even so, I think I would have bought into the world better if the characters had been even just a few years older, say eighteen or nineteen. Especially since there was a kind of a liberal arts college dorm on steroids (and acid) feel about the relationships and ambiance of the world.

If I forgot how old everyone was supposed to be, however, I enjoyed the story. The ending strayed a bit too close to another science fiction cliche for my comfort, but the visuals of the world and its artists were worth the ride for me.

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