Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Still Sad Music by Shawn Merritt is a sometimes melancholic, but always interesting journey through the coming of age of a troubled young man. Jeffrey is an awkward adolescent, just coming to terms with his feelings and emotions, when both his parents are killed in a car crash. With only his big brother left to guide him in the ways of the world and his best friend, Jimmy, Jeffrey embarks on a self-destructive journey of drugs, alcohol and sex as he tries to cope with life and with his place in this world. Along with his addictions, Jeffrey must face and deal with his own mental illness and understand what it is that makes him tick. Lurching from one crisis to another, he manages to stay a part of the world without actually being able to figure out his own place in it.
The Still Sad Music is a hauntingly poignant reminder that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” Shawn Merritt drags the reader into Jeffrey’s twisted and misunderstood world, and asks some of the very big questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? and What’s the point of it all? Despite the subject matter, which is at times depressing and sad, Merritt manages to infuse the story with enough subtle humour and genuinely funny observations about people to stop the reader from clutching his/her head in their hands in despair. The story is tight, well-written and exceptionally moving at times. It is impossible to read this book and not feel a deep compassion and sorrow for the young character, whilst at the same time having this intense desire to kick his butt and tell him to pull himself together. All in all, an excellent read and a real credit to this author. This is a coming-of-age novel with none of the nasty bits shaved off or toned down.