alt.punk is a story of a hypochondriac grocery store manager, Hazel, who is trapped in a miserable relationship. Her boyfriend is a lazy, messy pig who can barely leave the couch to get another jar of peanut butter. The protagonist finally gets the courage to leave the hair-depositing boyfriend and jumps into another relationship with a singer in a punk rock band. And, of course, the singer has to be the biggest junky; a sex-addicted, self-absorbed pig who is barely conscious of his surroundings. His brother is the main antagonist in the story, constantly needling Hazel for a variety of sins. He is the quintessential punk rock know-it-all, questioning her punk rock credentials at every opportunity.
Writing a novel about punk rock can be difficult because of the exclusionary aspects that are often found within punk scenes. For instance, the tales of a Warped Tour type of band wacked out of their minds on cocaine is very different from the punk rock scene that I know. Also, some of the band names mentioned in the book seemed to be more of a laundry list of hip, “old-school” punk bands. However, while I found myself thinking this, the antagonist says something very similar and I felt like an asshole questioning the bands being mentioned.
alt.punk is an extremely well-written and crafted book that is peppered with engaging dialogue. I looked forward to every new chapter in the book because of the writing style. Ludlow makes sure each chapter started with something clever, often funny, but always interesting. Because of this, the reading is quick, even if the abuse heaped upon Hazel can be too much at times. Thankfully, the author gives Hazel a strong voice and a glimmer of hope at the end. –Steve Hart (Casperian Books, PO Box 161026, Sacramento, CA95816-1026)