This is a great book.
Troy Billings is miserable to the bone, and that's only partly because he weighs 296 pounds. He's getting up the nerve to commit suicide by subway train when Curt MacCrae draws him into conversation. Curt's a locally famous punk rocker, a guy a couple of years older who went to Troy's high school. He's also filthy, homeless, kind of a junkie, and wants Troy to buy him lunch. And after lunch, he proposes that he and Troy form a band, despite the fact that Troy barely played the drums in junior high and Curt is cooler than cool and a bit flakey. And then change occurs, mostly to Troy but also to Curt, spurred by friendship, music and a desire to connect with the larger world despite the different forms of their alienation.
What makes it great is Going's skill at capturing Troy's acute self-consciousness, her grasp of what music and creative pursuits mean and the difficulty of longing to connect with a world you're alienated from, and her skill at drawing secondary characters like Troy's dad. She's got great descriptive chops in paragraphs like the following:
"My neighborhood isn't exactly the posh area most people envision when they think of Manhattan, but Curt's street takes grime to a whole new level. It features metal security grates, stray cats in heat, loitering men, and empty vodka bottles, and there's at least three bars within sight at all times. There's not a single tree that isn't strangled by plastic bags or fried chicken bones. It's distorted and grotesque and I nod approvingly. Maybe this is where I fit..." (33)
I also really loved Troy's dad, the super fit ex-Marine who could so easily lapse into the stereotype of the driven, rigid father who is the source of all his kid's problems. Going nicely develops the father-son relationship and shows a guy who realizes that he can't solve his kid's problems for him, but is willing to push him into an unorthodox situation if it might help him at all. Oh, and give Curt a bath and some dinner.
A great book, Going's debut is an ALA Printz Honor Book for YA Lit. At less than 200 pages, it's a short but wonderful read.