I am thrilled to share the Booklife review of Innocence Waning Part 1. This will be published in January 2020. The full text is below and the hyperlink to their site is for your kind reference.
Mitchell’s striking debut novel—the first of two volumes set in Melbourne, Australia—dives into the psyche of a reckless gay teen. One afternoon, 16-year-old Chezdon Morrison and his mates Jayden, Bryce, and Austin get drunk and experiment with drugs. Chezdon invites James, a 25-year-old store clerk, to come over; fielding puzzled inquiries from his friends, Chezdon admits he’s gay. Austin responds by also coming out. After Chezdon rejects James, Chezdon and Austin agree to date. Drama ensues as Chezdon finds romance, cheats, has sex, consumes various intoxicants, and gets involved in both an assault and a schoolyard fight. The instalment abruptly cuts off after another episode of violence.
Mitchell gives Chezdon a strong voice and a stronger personality that take a little while to get comfortable with, but soon readers will be hooked. He does not shy away from depravity—the debauched afternoon among the boys is a virtuoso sequence—but it is the sweet relationship that develops between Chezdon and Austin that appeals most. It’s frustrating to watch Chezdon actively jeopardize that relationship while trying to get what he thinks he wants. Chezdon is highly impulsive, and the plot mostly consists of him careening from one bad decision to another.
Mitchell is best with ambiguities, such as Chezdon’s relationship with Jayden, which varies from intimate to antagonistic. The starker elements get too hectic for Chezdon (and the reader) to process. The dialogue and narration are also uneven, encompassing both accurate teen-speak and highly didactic exchanges. Some awkward word choices (“drink from the ejaculating showerhead”) and vivid descriptions of bodily functions disrupt the narrative, but one erotic sex scene proves Mitchell can write effectively. Readers will likely see where Chezdon’s downward slide is going but will be eager to see whether he can put himself back together in part two.
Takeaway: Older queer teens will enjoy living vicariously through the sex, drugs, and drama of Mitchell’s gay coming-of-age novel.
Great for fans of Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin, Bret Easton Ellis.