MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lawn Boy

by Jonathan Evison

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison X
Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Evison's sharp, surprisingly funny new novel is an indictment of class inequality that never loses its empathic, hopeful heart.

Mike Muñoz, the narrator of Jonathan Evison's Lawn Boy, repeatedly expresses his aspiration to write the "Great American Landscaping Novel." His humble ambitions aside, readers of Mike's story may find themselves wondering, first, why there hasn't been a Great American Landscaping Novel and, second, whether Lawn Boy might actually be that very thing. Slight, straightforwardly written, and extremely funny, Evison's novel is slyly profound, taking on many of the big issues plaguing contemporary American society – all cloaked in an often hilarious story of one young man's life-changing year.

Mike feels stuck. It's a few years after high school, but he's still living at his mom's house, taking care of his developmentally disabled older brother Nate while his mom works two jobs to pay the bills. Mike secretly loves his work as a landscaper – and he knows he's one of the best there is – but too often the (largely white) homeowners who hire the crew that Mike's on have ridiculous expectations, from cleaning garages to picking up dog droppings. About the only thing that nurtures Mike is his regular trip to the library, a place where he's felt safe and sustained since childhood: "At the library, a little ferret of a kid like me had a chance. The only currency he needed was a library card." Mike longs to see himself and his world in the books he reads – but despite glimpses in decades-old naturalist books like Frank Norris's The Octopus or Upton Sinclair's The Jungle – Mike sees few working-class and poor people reflected in contemporary novels; instead they are filled with characters who are too often privileged and self-absorbed.

Mike has no time for self-absorption. He's too busy hustling to figure out where his next beer – let alone his next paycheck, once he gets fired by the landscaping company – might come from. He's too busy keeping Nate from flipping out in a restaurant to analyze his attraction to a waitress there; he's too busy cringing at his best friend's racist and homophobic comments to analyze his own sexual and ethnic identity; and he's definitely too busy making ends (barely) meet to analyze his own role as a cog in the machine that perpetuates systemic inequality.

Set on Washington State's Bainbridge Island, an island that (like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard) has a reputation for affluence but is also fueled by a largely unseen or unacknowledged working class, Lawn Boy uses a lens of humor and social satire to examine profound truths about how our society functions – or doesn't – and who can get ahead and who gets left way behind. Evison's prose is sharp and the situations he describes (such as an ill-fated occupation of a Walmart and an even less well-advised anti–puppy mill protest outside a pet store) offer opportunities for broad humor. But he also clearly cares deeply for the characters about whom he writes, and Lawn Boy is also a profoundly humanistic and hopeful novel at its core. Young Mike is an idealist – and readers - adults and young adults alike - will be rooting for him to upend the systems that seem to conspire to keep him down. Funny, romantic, and big-hearted, Lawn Boy just might be the Great American Landscaping Novel we didn't know we needed.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2018, and has been updated for the April 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Great Topiary Gardens

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Dirt
    American Dirt
    by Jeanine Cummins
    Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt hasn't just been positively reviewed by BookBrowse First Impressions ...
  • Book Jacket: In the Dream House
    In the Dream House
    by Carmen Maria Machado
    In the introduction to In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado (a National Book Award finalist for ...
  • Book Jacket: Father of Lions
    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan
    Our readers have given high marks to Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Out of 21 reviewers, 18 ...
  • Book Jacket
    Girl, Woman, Other
    by Bernardine Evaristo
    As we meet Amma, a 50-something playwright finally experiencing mainstream success in Bernardine ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"
—BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan

    A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    You Were There Too
    by Colleen Oakley

    Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Adventurer's Son

Publishing Soon!
The Adventurer's Son

"A brave and marvelous book. A page-turner that will rip your heart out."
--Jon Krakauer

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I I A Broke, D F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.