A few weeks ago in one of my Friday Book Beginnings I wrote about a new novel, Tweakerville by Alexei Melnick.  In my post I mentioned the unique narration; the harsh, almost unnerving attention to detail of drug culture; and an underlying theme that this book’s lawless Hawaii is almost visible beneath our noses:  “if you knew what to look for you would know.”

Having finished the novel (a while back, actually) I can say with confidence that Tweakerville not only lived up to its absorbing introduction, but surpassed it.  The book used the very themes I mentioned to help carry its enthralling storyline and charismatic protagonist to the bitter end.

Tweakerville (Mutual Publishing, 2010) is a story told through the distinct narrative voice of Jesse Gomes—he speaks in an amalgam of local Pidgin, drug culture vernacular, and modern teenage lingo.  Jesse is a seventeen year old on the verge of adulthood. Outcast from his working-class family he takes refuge in the world outside the law under the mentoring wing of a local drug dealer and his crew.  Jesse spends his days getting drunk and smoking weed at parties, jumping into fistfights on cue from his boss, and running drugs because his juvenile age makes him an asset against arrest.

Despite their illegal activities, Jesse and his peers follow a code of honor, each having a unique respect and bond for one another that borders on family loyalty. Family is one of many strong themes throughout the book and it comes in many forms.  Whether through reconnecting with his blood relatives, the pursuit of settling down with his girlfriend, or the camaraderie he shares with his neighborhood friends and drug dealing crew, Jesse is constantly straining to strengthen the bonds with the people in his life.  These connections are at odds with each other and as a result there’s often a struggle in the decisions Jesse must make in his life providing much of the book’s conflict.  He’s the kind of guy who will go out on a limb for these people—willing to put his own well-being on hold to take the rap for a crime, forsake a job opportunity to assist his sister, or risk his life to help an old friend, estranged cousin or fellow crew member.

That teetering balance of personal ethics in the midst of an immoral life—which contrasts nicely with the gratuitous callousness of his rivals—provides the kindling that lights this story.  Jesse Gomes is written masterfully by Alexei Melnick, a truer representation of your neighbor’s kid in Hawaii, the one mixed up in da kine…you can’t ask for a better character.

Of course, this is also a book which covers the epidemic known as ice (aka crystal methamphetamine), and in Tweakerville no matter how you define family, ice will always be there to tear it apart.

The attention to detail in the story is fantastic; despite the contrary, one would naturally assume the person who wrote this novel lived through this grimy world of meth-addiction. It just shows how dedicated Melnick is in creating this genuine world, reflecting its sub culture and its conflicts. Melnick also creates strong supporting characters to help guide the reader and show the many paths and influences Jesse has to pull from and move towards.  The characters, their dialogue and interactions with each other and the situations they fall into are so vivid and feel very authentic; I could not put the book down until I finished.  Melnick even includes a glossary in the back of the book to aid readers with the Pidgin and slang.

Overall, Tweakerville is highly recommended reading; so far, I consider it one of my favorite books of the year.  It’s an engaging story with well developed characters, a truly unique voice, and entry into a world so meticulously described you can feel your skin crawl and sweat begin to bead as you experience it on the page.  I look forward to Alexei Melnick’s future writings.  In the back of the book, there is an interview where Melnick states he is working on a possible prequel and sequel to Tweakerville.  If they come even close to the quality of the original, I’ll be one of the first on board to read them.

Honestly, there are so many excellent aspects to Tweakerville that I can’t cover it all without writing an essay.  If you’re still not convinced, check out a few more reviews of the novel from The Honolulu Weekly and The Star-Advertiser.  When you’re done reading those, rush out and pick up a copy of this book.  Whether you relate to the story and the characters, or find the whole world a depressing mess, Tweakerville will leave an indelible impression on you about this modern Hawaii—our Hawaii.

Tweakerville: Life and Death in Hawaii’s Ice World
By Alexei Melnick
Mutual Publishing, 2010
ISBN 978-1566479332
276 pages

Tweakerville Events:

Alexei Melnick will be present for the following Tweakerville book events.  Support this talented, new author and get your copy of the book signed!

  • Nov. 20th, 7pm – Barnes and Noble, Ala Moana
  • Nov. 27th, 2pm – Borders Ward Centre
  • Nov. 28th, 1pm – Borders Waikele