In a hamlet twenty-five miles east of Brooklyn the summer after the Nazis surrendered, Billy Hartman is murdered while on a bicycle ride through a heavily wooded preserve with his best friend Isaac Sawicki. Isaac escapes, but instead of going to get help, he goes to the movies. Still, Ginness Barrett, a reprobate high school senior, two years ahead of Billy and Isaac, is convicted on the weight of Isaac's eyewitness testimony, and the Nazi dagger police find in Barrett's school locker with remnants of Billy's blood wedged beneath the swastika. Sensing residual doubt, Isaac insists on telling the story of his friendship with Billy, beginning in their sixth-grade year, when Billy moved to the neighborhood just after Pearl Harbor, his family having formerly left Germany before Hitler seized power. Isaac begins and ends his tale avowing, "I didn't murder Billy. He was my best friend."With Isaac's persistent dry humor, he tells about Billy and him playing together, stoop ball, war, football, baseball; about helping each other kill time the day before Christmas, despite Isaac's being a Jew; about killing birds with Isaac's BB gun; about pedalling seventeen miles out to Isaac's aunt's just to shoot her 22; about sailing Isaac's Snipe on the Great South Bay; about bamboozling police on Halloween night by setting off colossal homemade flares all over town.Isaac, Billy, and their goombahs divorce themselves from the adult world by speaking their own dialect, replete with curse words (you fuckin shittin me); singular pronunciations (faddah, muddah); shortened words (quirements, barrassed); single word sentences, Jeet? (Did you eat?), Fuhgeddaboutit (Forget about it); Yiddish words (chutzpah, schmuck).Isaac tells of falling in love with Mackenzie Ralwes, the two of them surrendering themselves to each other, spinning a cocoon with their sexual honesty against the arbitrary mores of an adult world whose self-righteous ideals and hypocritical ways have led the world to war.This story gives testimony to Mya Angelou's words, "Most don't make it through their teens." One would think this is a work every teenager would want to read, as well as every adult who has never come to grips with just what happened during those teenage years.
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