[Due to a slight mix-up, this review did not appear in VOYA as it was supposed to, and therefore the editor has given me the go-ahead to post it here. We're limited to 250 words for VOYA reviews, and our reviews are written for the audience of librarians who work with young adults, so this will sound quite different than the reviews I usually post here. However, I wanted to go ahead because this book deserves all the positive attention it can get.]
In Venomous, Christopher Krovatin’s second novel, Locke Vinetti’s temper is so volatile that he calls it “the venom.” His mother, younger brother, and friend Randall are the only stabilizing influences in his life until Randall introduces Locke to the troubled but emotionally mature Renée. Equally important, Locke meets Casey, a gay teen whose own explosive anger allows him to truly understand Locke’s constant struggle.
Simply put, this book is a winner. Krovatin has infused a traditional full-length novel with graphic novel sensibilities, both in Locke’s tendency to identify with comic book heroes (and villains) and in the presentation itself, with occasional comic-style illustrations by Kelly Yates. As such, this book will appeal to both genders, and is a particularly good choice for reluctant male readers. Best of all, Venomous teases the reader into questioning, almost until the end, whether “the venom” is an actual supernatural phenomenon or a highly developed coping mechanism.
It should be noted that although Krovatin’s treatment of alcohol and drug use is somewhat casual, his exploration of sex and violence is anything but, tackling the associated emotions with honesty and depth. In addition, while Locke’s estranged father feels generic, Locke’s relationships with his mother and brother are beautifully drawn. The climax is slightly overdramatic, and forgiveness occurs more quickly than seems realistic, but these are minor quibbles. Librarians should be aware of the book’s graphic language and violence, but by all means should get this book into young adult hands.