The author took me deep into the lives of the teens who committed a heinous and ridiculous murder in such a way that I cannot get them out of my mind. Kunerth's creative nonfiction gives the reader a taste of each boy's family life, his need to fit into a group--any group, his naive bravado and recklessness and finally his evolution moving into middle age behind bars. We have all known boys like this. Turns out our parents were right when they said not to hang around with the wrong crowd. In Florida, that can get you a life sentence even if you are just an unwitting hanger-on. The teenage brain is on trial on many levels in Trout. The debate about how old you must be to be sentenced as an adult and the way it is handled from state to state and nation to nation comes down to this--it varies. What does not vary is the fact that the human brain takes a long time to form in the areas of impulsivity, reasoning and consequences. Add to that the increase of violent behavior when in groups and you find a powder keg of potential explosives during the high school years. Teens with absent or abusive families and a sense of hopelessness think they have little to lose. This cautionary tale should be read in middle and high schools across the country. And...if we can be a positive influence in a young person's life--let's do it.
Jeff Kunerth's skill as a reporter is wonderfully evident in this beautifully written and meticulously researched book about a sad, senseless murder committed one long-ago night by three foolish young men -- and the consequences that followed. Narrative nonfiction is always tricky to write well, but Kunerth pulls it off wonderfully with this perfectly paced novel. If this were a newspaper feature, I have no doubt it would be up for a Pulitzer. I couldn't put it down! A relatively short, very meaningful read; highly recommended.
Rarely has such a well-researched true crime book come along. Kunerth is a master at this genre. I recommend this book as a study in the controversial discussion about rehabilitation for adolescent criminals.
Those damn self-serving public officials who are jumping on the band wagon for trying children as adults should read this book, and then honestly ask themselves if they are the same person they were as a teenager. I know I'm not, nowhere close! The teenage mind is no where near being fully developed to the point of making rational decisions. Kunerth makes the case quite conviningly for rehabilitation instead of locking kids away for life without parole. I fear, however that two bit polotitions will care less about saving young lives and more about gathering votes by scaring the hell out of the public with stories of roving bands of violent teenagers bent on murder, rape and robbery.