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33 snowfish by Adam Rapp

2Q-2P (ages 14-16)
Rapp, Adam. 33 snowfish. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2003.

Custis, Curl, and Boobie are on the run after Boobie killed his parents and stole their car and his baby brother. Each member of this motley threesome is staring down their own individual demons: Custis, a boy no older than 13, has recently escaped from his “owner,” sex-crazed pedophile Bob Motley; Curl is a 15-year-old prostitute with a sexually transmitted disease and a drug addiction; and Boobie is pyromaniac who conveys his emotions through bizarre drawings. The trio plans to sell Boobie’s nameless baby brother and make off with the cash, but they eventually find themselves living in an abandoned school bus in the middle of a brutal winter. When Curl dies of what appears to be pneumonia and Boobie disappears, Custis and the baby are on their own, but are soon taken in by Seldom, an elderly African American man.

33 snowfish is an extremely dark novel that is often difficult to read because of Rapp’s writing style. The frequent run-ons and jumbled paragraphs accurately depict the characters’ tumultuous feelings and mindsets, but I found the novel difficult to follow and it often read like the ravings of a madman.

Throughout the novel, the characters make many mistakes, but they never appear to learn from them and continue making the same mistakes repeatedly. While teens face real issues such as poverty, abuse, drug use, and crime, the characters in 33 snowfish do not seem to behave realistically throughout the book.

The cover of 33 snowfish features a drawing of Curl, her sunflower dress stained with sweat and other bodily fluids, surrounded by snowflakes. While the cover is not particularly interesting, it is artistic and may capture the attention of some teen readers.
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