Book Review: Saint Iggy by K.L. Going

Title: Saint Iggy

Author: K.L. Going

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 272

Rating: A

Recommended?: Yes

What a heart-wrenching and lovely story. I liked it more than Going’s debut novel Fat Kid Rules the World and King of the Screwups, even though King of the Screwups is a close second. K.L. Going is so good at exploring the inner lives of her teen characters and this book’s protagonist, Iggy Caruso, has such a convincing and interesting voice. At the beginning of this poignant, sad novel, the titular character just got kicked out of high school for fighting with a teacher and wants to prove he isn’t the good-for-nothing fuck-up everything thinks he is.

He’s got a hearing in a few days, but it seems unlikely he’ll be allowed to come back. His parents are drug addicts and his mom’s been AWOL for ages. Shortly after his expulsion, he finds himself getting pulled into his friend Mo’s trouble. Mo owes a drug dealer (the same guy who deals to Iggy’s parents) money and his trying to get Iggy to help him pat Mo’s wealthy mother down for the the cash.

Mo rejects his parents’ ‘phoniness’ and privilege, unless he needs something from them of course. I hated Mo. What a shithead. He actually has the audacity to tell Iggy he’s ‘lucky’ to live in squalor, because it’s ‘real’ and lacks the artifice of where Mo came from, i.e., a place with lots of money, food, and clean water. I felt bad for Mo’s mom. He treated her so terribly and I didn’t feel like she deserved it.

She takes a liking to Iggy and tries to help him out with his situation. She kind of treats him like a surrogate son since Mo won’t return her love or allow her to be a part of his life. Iggy feels bad for helping Mo use her and his attempts to do ‘the right thing’ eventually lead to tragic consequences. I found myself wondering on several occasions whether Iggy was a little bit mentally slow.

He even made a statement early on in the book about his mom’s drug use possibly affecting his brain development when she was pregnant with him. He has a lot of funny internal dialogues that feel like a little kid’s, with the people who were mean to him dramatically realizing the error of their ways. He’s torn between doing the right thing for the SAKE of doing the right thing versus the hope of having his virtuous actions rewarded.

He loves his mom despite everything and doesn’t do drugs because he sees how it’s ruined his parents’ lives. Iggy felt like a real person to me, his tangential narrative voice rough around the edges and crackling with energy. Even though the story only took place over the span of a couple of days I felt like I really got to know how character. It’s a book you can’t help but binge-read that avoids problem-novel stereotypes and delivers something truly dynamic.

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