I have so many things to say about Pop Salvation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying how much I loved it. Based on the back cover, I wasn’t sure how interesting this book would be, so it really took me aback once I really got into it. The first few pages start off a little bit slow, but within about 15 pages, you can’t help but fall in love with little Caleb Watson and then you won’t be able to put the book down until it’s finished.

Pop Salvation is a book about the self-discovery of Caleb Watson, who moves to a new town at age 11 and is never really accepted by the other children in his school. Throughout the book he struggles to find an identity that fits him, discovering the wonders of art, Andy Warhol and The Rocky Horror Picture Show along the way. The book is set in the early 80’s at the height of Warhol’s popularity and his work in The Factory. Caleb adopts Warhol’s philosophy into his own life and even begins dressing like the famed artist.

But the most exciting parts of the book are the times Caleb spends with his friends, creating their own art and interacting in a world where everyone is accepted. Caleb and his few friends are all part of a group of outcasts who struggle throughout the book to come to terms with their sexual identity, having been labeled as “different” from very early on. I’m assuming the marketers who put together the blurb on the back of the book left out this part of the story in order to draw in a larger audience, as I’m sure there are people who would be put off by a book about teenagers struggling with whether they are gay or straight, but I found this to be the most extraordinary and wonderful part of the book.

The first half of the book reads almost like a love letter from Caleb to his friends, Aaron and Sonia. The tenderness he has for them radiates off the page in a way that makes you want to stop time and let it last forever. At a certain point I knew things were going to take a turn for the worst and I almost put the book down so I wouldn’t have to break out of the lovely dreamworld I’d been living in, but, of course, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing where author Lance Reynald would lead me. I don’t want to give away too much of the book so I’ll just say that I found this book to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I’ve ever read. You’ll definitely cry, so bring some tissues with you when you read it.

For anyone in Portland or Northern California, Lance Reynald will be doing readings next week. From the events’ websites:

Monday, July 06, 2009 07:30 PM
Hailed as “marvelously endearing and insightful” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Lance Reynald’s debut novel Pop Salvation (Harper Perennial) spins together pop art and burgeoning sexuality in a fresh story about learning to trust yourself and the people you love.

Thursday, July 09, 2009
Location: Books Inc. in the Castro, 2275 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: 415-864-6777

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