Third Wheel | Critical Book Review
In Richard R. Becker’s Third Wheel, the gritty reality of young manhood in 1980s Las Vegas unfolds in a raw and compulsive narrative. Warren Maxwell dives into the depths of this indie coming-of-age novel, shedding light on the turbulent journey of 14-year-old Brady.
Brady’s Turbulent Journey
Moving from the inner-city of Cleveland to a Las Vegas suburb, Brady grapples with the aftermath of his father’s suicide, the loss of his grandmother, and the torments of his sadistic mother. Amidst this chaos, he discovers camaraderie and brotherhood among a group of older boys who share a love for Dungeons & Dragons.
A Downward Spiral
As Brady enters his sophomore year, the story takes a dark turn when an ominous figure named Alex leads the group into a world of hard drugs, gun games, and cartels. Caught between loyalty to his best friend Mick and doing what he believes is right, Brady navigates a treacherous path filled with drug deals gone awry, police confrontations, and the sudden attention of Cheryl, a girl six years his senior.
Blending Nostalgia with Dark Realism
Becker’s narrative initially promises a dose of youthful nostalgia but quickly expands into a much grander tale. Seamlessly blending Brady’s coming-of-age with elements of poignant romance and hardboiled crime, the novel introduces femme fatales, mobsters, and ingenues. Despite descending into a bleak narrative bordering on nihilism, Brady’s forthright voice maintains a sense of hopefulness and love.
Dark Material, Compassionate Exploration
The novel delves into dark themes — drugs, violence, fickle romances, and betrayals — devoid of easy answers or responsible adults. However, Becker weaves a story that navigates humane cruelty, leaving readers with a lingering sense of hope amidst the chaos.
Authentic Narration and Evocative Settings
Brady’s Distinct Voice
Brady emerges as a compelling narrator, weaving life lessons from Dungeons & Dragons, waxing poetic about the desert, and describing gritty fights in stomach-turning detail. His authentic, youthful voice imparts wisdom and naivety, creating a character that lingers in the reader’s mind.
Rich Landscape and Characters
Becker skillfully renders the landscape and characters, avoiding cliches and prolonged descriptions. The 80s serve as a mood, shaping the story, while the suburban environment and desolate desert locales symbolize the crises in Brady’s life. Literary references connect Brady to characters like Dune’s Paul Atreides and Great Expectations’ Pip, using the desert as a metaphor for foreignness and isolation.
Impactful Realism and Lasting Resonance
Third Wheel stands out as a remarkable debut, delivering a punch of harsh realism. Becker’s deep insights into the human condition resonate long after the final page, leaving readers with a profound exploration of youth, love, and the complexities of navigating a world in turmoil.
Publisher, Genre, Print Length, ISBN
|Literary Fiction / Coming of Age
In Richard R. Becker’s Third Wheel, the gritty reality of young manhood in 1980s Las Vegas unfolds in a raw and compulsive narrative. Warren Maxwell dives into the depths of this indie coming-of-age novel, shedding light on the turbulent journey of 14-year-old Brady. Brady’s Turbulent Journey Moving from the inner-city of Cleveland to a Las…