Opioid, Indiana

Soho. Sept. 2019. 224p. ISBN 9781641290784. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781641290791. F
At age 17, Riggle is sent from Texas to rural Indiana to live with extended family after losing both of his parents. He ends up at the home of his drug-addicted uncle, and his uncle’s girlfriend, Peggy. Riggle philosophizes the way teenagers do best about life in Indiana, renaming his town “Opioid,” after the vast addiction problem there. He riffs on vaping, racism, school shootings, and the prevalence of the Confederate flag like a college professor who knows all the answers. But for all of Riggle’s intellectual prowess and crowing, he’s lost when it comes to his uncle, who is on a drug binge and nowhere to be found just as the rent is due, and Peggy is a disaster. Riggle expounds on the locals in Opioid, such as “Autistic Ross,” who mainly wanders the street and waves at children. He also thinks back and shares stories of his mother, who created her own mythological folktales using shadow puppets to explain how words got their meanings, like the days of the week.
VERDICT Like his all-knowing young protagonist, Carr (Slip; Vampire Conditions) is a writer of modern, crisp, and quick prose. This latest novel presents a fresh twist on today’s teenager in a wasteland of drugs and economic hardship.

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