SOURPUSS is a brutal and explicit novel that exposes the gross excesses of campus party life and the entitlement of athletes and the college social elites. Little sympathy and less redemption is given to either victims and villains with the differences between the two quite muted. Readers should be warned that the book isn’t an Animal House-style farce where bad behavior is only hinted at and sophomoric humor is the goal. Rape and rape culture are the central aspects of this story and the behaviors cataloged are despicable, disgusting, and unfortunately don’t feel less grim than the accounts of real-life victims.
The main protagonist, Mallory Wahl, is a gifted track star with her eyes on making the Olympic team. Mallory is a deeply flawed diva in her senior year at the unnamed college. She’s injured when her own entitled resentments distract her during a hurdles race. When Graham, the slick fraternity president and aspiring physical therapist who’d distracted her is assigned to be her rehab mentor, the story kicks into high gear.
Resentments, ambitions, and plenty of bad decisions brew in a toxic stew of alcohol, drugs, and raging hormones. The story veers between brief visits to the track and to out-of-control partying, mostly at the frat house. Friendships and romances are battered and bruised even worse that Mallory’s knee. Almost casually, we’re presented with scene after scene of debauchery. Even the mostly unnamed female victims of the toxic frat culture are presented as scheming social climbers willingly presenting themselves for abuse.
The plot becomes somewhat obscured and disjointed by all the bad behavior and “unforgiveable” betrayals that too often seem to be forgiven without explanation. Some of the supporting characters simply and without reason shift attitudes and alliances. At times, these sudden shifts can leave the reader wondering if they too are suffering from alcohol-related memory loss. This continuity problem is rather minor, but distracting.
The writing is brutally honest and graphic, maybe beyond the limits of what many readers can tolerate. For the most part, the writing is strong and well presented with few typos or errors. The track segments are poorly researched—the event Mallory participates in doesn’t exist. However, none of that really matters compared to the overwhelming issue of the book. The topic of rape itself is so dark, the abuses so horrific and very real, that it may be impossible to satirize it. Perhaps one of the most offensive sick “jokes” in literary history involves the title. Some darkness is just too deep to contain any humor.
SOURPUSS, while strongly written, is an extremely disturbing story of the worst behaviors in which entitled college students can engage about a challenging and sensitive topic that arguably isn’t suited for dark humor.
~J.V. Bolkan for IndieReader