Adios, Nirvana
by Wesselhoeft, Conrad

Losing touch with reality after the death of his twin brother, teenage poet and guitarist Jonathan risks failing the 11th grade until his English teacher, principal and fellow band members (who refuse to become seniors without him) intervene.

In the wake of his twin brother's death, Jonathan, a former star student, is facing the possibility of repeating his junior year. The only things standing between him and failure are his devoted best friends, an understanding principal named Gupti, and his English teacher. The assignments that will ensure his promotion? Attend class every day, help an 88-year-old WWII veteran write his memoir, and perform Gupti's favorite song, "Crossing the River Styx," at graduation. Wesselhoeft offers a psychologically complex debut that will intrigue heavy-metal aficionados and drama junkies alike. Peopled with the elderly and infirm, crazy parents, caring educators, and poignant teens trying desperately to overcome death's pull, it mixes real and fictional musicians and historical events to create a moving picture of struggling adolescents and the adults who reach out with helping hands. Darker and more complex than Jordan Sonnenblick's thematically similar Notes from the Midnight Driver (2006), Adios, Nirvana targets an audience of YAs who rarely see themselves in print.

Seattle high-school junior Jonathan's life has turned upside down since he won a major poetry contest shortly after his twin brother's death. His hedonistic mother, who works at the Bikini Bean Espresso Drive-Thru, and his Thicks (friends) all try to support him, but he's just careening through life, fueled by Red Bull and No-Doz. Jonathan fears sleep, when he's caught in the memories and music he shared with the brother. A bizarre intersection of amusingly oddball characters finds him earning cash by writing the biography of a Hospice patient whose life has been scarred by his experiences in World War II. In prose as overwrought as the protagonist, the first-person narration touches on poetry, truth, music, friends and death. The suicidal fears that are evident from the first page ratchet up the tension. Through a slam-bang climactic graduation ceremony that includes a priceless guitar, Eddie Vedder and King Kong, the appeal of the constant jitters and manic life finally fade. It's all kind of a mess, but at least it's a high-energy, appealing one. (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

"Hey, man, get down!"

"Dude, don't be an idiot!"

It's my thicks calling to me. They're standing just off the bridge, in the little park with the totem pole. The one that looks out over Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle.

But tonight you can't see a thing. Tonight, the world is a giant shaken snow globe. Big flakes tumbling down. The size of potato chips.

In this city of eternal rain-snow! Once-a-decade snow. Maybe even once-a-century. It's piling fast.

We've been tossing frozen grapes at each other's open orifices. Kyle is extremely good at this-can catch a grape in his mouth at fifty feet. So can Javon. They dart and dive and roll, catching nearly every grape despite the swirly snow and patchy street light.

Nick and I pretty much suck.

I dig the grapes out of the snow. Eat them.

They are Mimi's little specialty, cored and filled with vodka. One or two or ten don't do much, but thirty or forty-whoa!Kyle lifted the whole bag from my freezer. I've had . . . god knows. I lost count a long time ago.

And now I'm feeling it. All of it. I'm spinning. Delirious. A little sick.

Plus, I gotta pee.

I'm standing on the rail of the bridge, midspan, grasping the light pole.

It's an old concrete bridge. The rail is waist high and just wide enough for me to perch on without slipping, as long as I hold on to the light pole.

I gaze up into the blazing industrial bulb. See the flakes lingering in the little upswirl. Below, the ground is bathed in perfect white darkness. It's not all that far down, twenty or thirty feet. Just enough to break a few bones-or kill you. It looks like a soft pillow. Dimpled by shrubs and bushes.

"Dude, dude, dude . . ."

"What're ya doin', man?"

I unzip and explode, blast a twelve-foot rope of steaming piss into the night.

When you piss off a bridge into a snowstorm, it feels like you're connecting with eternal things. Paying homage to something or someone. But who? The Druids? Walt Whitman? No, I pay homage to one person only, my brother, my twin.

In life. In death.


Footsteps crunch up behind me. I know it's Nick-"Nick the Thick."

"Hey, Jonathan." His voice is quiet. "C'mon down."

Just then, my stomach churns. I tighten my grip on the light pole, lean out over the bridge. My guts geyser out of me. I taste the grapes, the soft bean burrito I had for lunch. The tots. The milk.

Twisting and drooling, I see below that spring has bloomed on the snow-covered bushes. Color has returned to the azaleas. Another wave hits me. And another. All those damn grapes. And, god knows, more burrito and tots.

Till I'm squeezed dry.

Pulped out.


I watch snowflakes cover my mess. It's like we're making a Mexican casserole together, the night and me. Night lays down the flour tortilla, I add the vegetable sauce.

When I look around, Kyle and Javon are standing there, too.

Kyle says, "If you break your neck, dude, I will never forgive you."

Javon says, "Already lost one of you. Get your ass down, or I'll drag it down."

It hurts. They are my oldest friends, my thicks.

And thickness is forever.

But somewhere in that snowy world below, Telemachus waits.

I loosen my grip on the light pole.

"Hey!" they shout. "HEY!"

My frozen fingers slip. Their panicky hands lunge for me.

But I'm too far gone.

I'm falling . . . falling. There's ecstasy and freedom here. Somehow I flip onto my back, wing my arms, Jesus-like, and wait for my quilty azalea bed to cradle me. And my Mexican casserole to warm me.

I fall, fall, fall into the snowy night.

Thinking of my brother.

Thinking of Telemachus.

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