Christened Jamey by a minister who mistakenly believes him to be a girl, James D. Schultz’s early years are ironically characterized by a series of ‘adventures and misadventures’ that are probably as far from the traditional notion of the feminine as it’s possible to be. Raised by his controlling pharmacist father and conventional mother, the author joins forces with his older brother and oftentimes idol, Rob (there is little over a year between them), who is imbued with a similar penchant for risky endeavors. These often dangerous undertakings occasionally lead to disastrous outcomes, either for the two brothers themselves or some unfortunate ‘victim’. Indeed, from the outset, Schultz comments that their survival into adulthood is something of a miracle. Growing up, the two siblings are firm comrades, united by their adrenaline-fueled escapades that serve as a contrast to the strictures of their somewhat austere domestic life. The brothers’ many wrongdoings – minor or otherwise – inevitably result in harsh physical punishment administered by their father, who unwittingly bestows emotional scars on his two sons. Similar in age and interests, the brothers engage in a whole litany of dangerous misdemeanors, eventually being sent away from the family’s holiday cottage to a rather militaristic summer camp – but even there, opportunities for getting into trouble lurk.
In addition to detailing a range of incidents, Schultz interweaves stories of his and Rob’s encounters with girls; while Rob conforms to expectations and settles into a conventional marriage, the author portrays himself as naturally wary of commitment. Following the departure of his brother and ‘partner in crime’, Schultz appears to struggle to find direction in life, experimenting with a host of occupations and attempting university three times. Along the way, it is not all adventures and practical jokes: at one point, the narrator suffers several bereavements in a row, including the loss of his Grandfather and the family dog, Topper. Inevitably, such critical junctures have a sobering impact and help shape a person’s character. At times, Schultz invites censure with his reckless behavior (the book is appropriately named) and his seeming inability to grow up – made manifest, not least, by his attitude toward the females with whom he forms relationships. This is offset, however, by the very human element that slips through the cracks: his brother’s ‘desertion’; the inevitable emotional damage incurred by his unknowingly cruel father; his struggle to find a passion and sense of direction in life (other than causing mayhem!). As a reader, one wills Schulz to channel his considerable energy into endeavors that will lead to contentment and fulfillment, without losing his healthy sense of adventure. This acts as a sufficient prompt to see his story through to its conclusion.
At first glance, HEADLONG: Growing Up Recklessly is simply a testosterone-fueled recount of a mischievous boyhood that segues into a similarly reckless young adulthood. But more than that, James D. Schultz memoir will strike a chord with anyone who has struggled to find their place in the world.
~Amanda Ellison for IndieReader