Tap Out proves to be a gripping and dark novel about a teenaged boy who only knows grinding despair but discovers a ray of hope within the walls of a local gym. As the novel unfolds, we’re provided insight into the way despair can shift to emotional strength, and hopelessness can be lifted to capture a glimmer of light in the future. In telling the story of a teenaged boy named Tony, growing up in a trailer park, Author Eric Devine depicts the reality of drug abuse and the desperate cycle of poverty and abuse that becomes the reality of many teens growing up with addicted parents. As promotional copy explains, “Tony’s life is bleak and violent, as his drug-addict mother’s boyfriend regularly beats her up and gleefully includes Tony if he objects… Tony sees himself as trailer trash, with no options and no hope for a better life. Tony finds the gym’s fight world, with its rules and demands for toughness, a place where he can receive rare praise. At the gym he finds some respect, guys he can trust and a chance….”
Kirkus reviewers said, “This is bound to have huge appeal to kids whose lives are being mirrored, and it may prompt luckier readers to take some positive action.”
While this novel is recommended for ages 14 and up because of the realistic portrayal of addiction, violence and abuse, it is a worthy read that instantly captures readers and holds us to the end. The memory of Tony stays with us as we want to know more about his survival with every turn of events. I found myself wondering about him long after that last page, and, in fact, am still hoping he escapes that trailer park life.
Author Eric Devine is a writer, high school English teacher, and educational consultant. He is also the author of This Side of Normal, a novel about a teen struggling with type 1 diabetes. He lives in Waterford, New York, with his family, and can be found online at ericdevine.org and on Twitter @eric_devine.