It is books like Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch (2009) that really show the strength of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program -- if they hadn't sent me an advance copy for review, the chances of me getting my hands on Roesch's debut novel (particularly considering my tendency to only buy books that are at least a decade old) would have been slim. And this book was great.
"Sometimes we're always real same-same" is one of the reasons that Go-boy, a young man in the small Alaskan town of Unalakleet, loves his girlfriend Valerie. Go-boy is the cousin of our protagonist, Cesar, a high school junior from LA who moves to Unalakleet with his mom (a Native who was born there but hadn't come back for 20 years) after his parents split up and his brother gets a life sentence for killing two people in a gang shooting. Go-boy is positive that Cesar will stay in Alaska (in fact, Go-boy is usually pretty positive about everything), although Cesar is sure he is going to head back to LA as soon as he can save up enough money for a plane ticket.
Then Cesar meets Kiana, Go-boy's adopted step-sister, and after a one-night stand he can't stop thinking about her.
Through a summer of romance, tragedy, and a job counting fish, Cesar becomes more and more tied to the community and his cousin, while Go-boy spins out of control with his unorthodox views of Christianity and philosophies of a world-wide conspiracy to make heaven on earth. Cesar, like most teenagers, is so caught up in his own internal dramas that he doesn't notice that Go-boy's mania is pushing him over the edge until it becomes unstoppable.
This book explores some heavy territory (including alcoholism, gang violence, mental illness, and suicide) without becoming too preachy in the process. The characters, the town, and the interplay between western and Native traditions are nicely drawn and the narrative is compelling and well-paced. I really enjoyed this book, and I think it would be a great read for both high school and adult readers.
Plus the title is sure always real fun to try-say.