The Spearfisherman

Fiction - New Adult
311 Pages
Reviewed on 04/25/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

The Spearfisherman by Ric Szabo is set in Australia and is about a college student named Steve Chambers. The book begins with Steve reminiscing over his past before shifting to the day his father drops him off at the type of university that drips in collegiate gothic architecture. Steve settles in with little effort, except for minor infractions and hard-learned lessons, like putting his foot in his mouth over someone's sister and getting abandoned on the side of a deserted stretch of road. Steve establishes meaningful friendships, particularly with Jason Keogh, whose success with the ladies has Steve introduced to Natalie. He's initially disinterested in Nat but in getting to know her, things change. Casual becomes routine and routine becomes exclusive pretty rapidly. Nat is a caring soul and when a rumor of sexual assault circulates, she gets involved and pulls Steve in with her. Between Steve's robust social and study life, he turns sleuth for Nat when the stories become a trend. Sadly, it will not be the last time Steve is forced to play detective, and the twist that grabs hold as the story heads to its finale is equal parts unexpected and heart-breaking.

The first thing that Ric Szabo taught me in The Spearfisherman is that there are actually young men out there who are so dumb that they open their mouths and utter things to their girlfriends like, “You could shed a little lard in certain places.” The testament to Szabo's skill of character development here is that I still liked Steve after this. I went into this book expecting a straightforward young adult coming of age story, but was pleasantly surprised to discover it was one-hundred percent literary fiction. It is a slow burn and unlike Steve's declaration that “Making friends was as easy as knocking on someone’s door,” getting into Steve's story and making friends with him as a character took slightly longer for me. There are some standout elements that literary fiction readers will like. The dialogue is pitch-perfect, witty, and extremely authentic. The layers within the text work as emotional filters and in a character-driven story without a clearly ascribable plot, this is executed perfectly. There are elements that readers who go in hoping for a young adult novel will not like at all, but I do think the weeding out will happen organically...and then the literary folk can come in and grab the grand prize: a happy ending in a hailstorm of painful growth. Recommended.

Pikasho Deka

The Spearfisherman by Ric Szabo is a coming-of-age tale that follows a young man's journey of self-discovery. Steve Chambers grew up with a bunch of rowdy guys who have each other's back, no matter what. After a physical skirmish at a party instigated by one of his closest friends, Steve enrolls in a reputable university, hoping to start a new chapter of his life. However, he is shocked to discover that one of the guys his friends fought with also attends the same institution. Surprisingly, the young man, Jason Keogh, becomes Steve's best friend at the university. While Steve and his newfound friends go through the usual college rituals of hazing and partying, Steve begins a burgeoning romance with a young student named Natalie. But can he let go of his violent past and become a better man?

The Spearfisherman is one of those stories that take you back to your younger days, making you think about what it felt like trying to fit in with your friends and assimilate with the real world. Author Ric Szabo's heartfelt and moving story about a young man on the cusp of adulthood, discovering new friends alongside a sense of responsibility, hits close to home and keeps you enthralled throughout the pages. I couldn't put the book down. The characters are immensely relatable, with realistic personalities and conflicting motives that add complexity to the narrative, making it all the more compelling to read. If you love coming-of-age stories, I can't recommend The Spearfisherman highly enough.