I really had no idea what to expect when opening The Intangibles and starting my journey with the characters enclosed. Set in 1968, it's a period of time rife with conflict after the recent death of President John F. Kennedy, and the beginnings of integration of black and white citizens of the United States. The book primarily focuses on the town of Fairmont in South Carolina and the climbing tensions surrounding the closure of Mossy Springs High School and the introduction of the black students to the formerly all white Fairmont High.
While there are some citizens who are meeting the challenge with a great deal of compassion and consideration, there are also those who feel that the deep south shouldn't be enabling such change, and they make it known, whether through the appearances of the Klu Klux Klan, or more covertly through positions of authority. Though it seems like a heavy read at first glance, it was far from it. Sure, it deals with some of the issues of the time, many of which are still prevalent in the current decade. Drugs, underage drinking, and a great deal of social development as these young adults try to find their way in life, but it could be written about any school in almost any era and as such, it enables the reader to connect on multiple levels and really empathize with each and every character, however despicable they may be.
I noticed from the beginning that football was going to be the major star in this book, even over the racial battles that ensue. The thing that surprised me most about that, is that I have no interest in sport at all yet the book kept my attention regardless and I found myself saddened on turning the last page. I'm not sure I'd recognized just how much I had bonded with the characters until that moment.Another thing I liked about this book a great deal too, is that there is no main character in the book but rather a strong and varied cast that are given an equal amount of the limelight in which to succeed or fail. They'll definitely steal a bit of your heart and as some of the characters are developed through the novel, you'll find yourself shifting a lot with regard to your favourites. Strong language, and sexual content is sprinkled throughout the book but in such a way that it only serves to increase the authentic feel of the novel. It's set in a turbulent time, and deals with the most senior young adults in a school during their time of experimentation and Monte Dutton shares the story with skill, and an unapologetic style that I couldn't help but respect.
The main appeal for me? The racial integration certainly brought a great deal to mind. I wasn't born until 1974 and so I have no knowledge about that era at all. It's not something that was ever brought up much. Certainly not in my family, and in school in the UK we were always focused on other periods of history like the Elizabethans or Tudors. I forget often that the society we see today, with interracial marriage and kids, wasn't always so visible. Of course, there are still battles, and a great deal of racism but I'd like to believe it's becoming more of an exception than a rule (yes, I'm an Optimist). I guess where I am going with this, is that the book doesn't share a story that ends when you turn the last page. It's a book that alters your life, or at least your perception of it. Those are my favourite kind.
I'll also add that I truly appreciated and enjoy the various dynamics between the characters, but most especially the complexity in relationships between fathers (or father figures) and adolescent sons. It's a richly rewarding read and I know I'll be revisiting this title at some point, and I may have to check out other titles by Monte Dutton too.
If you'd like to see what other bookworms think of this title, please check out the blog tour information at Worldwind Virtual Book Tours (who I'd like to thank for having me along for the ride!) by clicking the image below. I know I'm going to be looking to see what others liked best!