David Tinker is something of a mess. Seventeen years old, and he and his father abandoned by his mother some years before, David exists in a perpetual haze of marijuana smoke, cigarette smoke, and alcohol. He’s a big guy, former school football player, and he’s completely into music and his notebook. He writes down his thoughts, and some are astonishing in their insight and clarity.
He’s dating, a more than dating, a girl named Wendy. She’s walked away from her church youth group and is clearly far more into David than he is into her. David’s school choir teacher, Mr. Halston, encourages him to sing and even try out for a significant part in an operetta, but David and his friends prefer to spend their time at the local quarry, drinking, smoking, and listening to music. David’s life is going nowhere fast.
And then, almost inevitably, tragedy strikes. And the David Tinker who comes out on the other side has to learn how to take control of his life and essentially grow up.
Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky by Stephen Parolini can almost be seen as two novels bound together by common characters. There’s a pre-tragedy story and a post-tragedy. I’ll confess to an initial impatience with the pre-tragedy story, a long repetition of alcohol, marijuana, and generally dissolute behavior. But the post-tragedy clarifies that long pattern of misbehavior, and what happens could only have happened with the first David Tinker. It’s a coming-of-age story, aimed at teens, but it is also a story for adults, one that helps us understand what happens to young people who seem to have so much going for them.
It’s also a story about art, music, and writing, about what they mean and how we use them – to connect with each other and to connect with ourselves.
Parolini has been an editor for more than 28 years, working on a wide array of projects – curriculum, study guides, self-help books, fiction, and more. In addition to Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky, he’s published two other novels – Duck (2014) and Stolen Things (2016). He blogs at Novel Doctor: Wisdom and Nonsense for Writers. Fiction, he says, is his first and primary love.
By the time I finished Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky, I ended up doing what I didn’t expect at all at the outset – I fell in love with this book. To one degree or another, we all have something of David Tinker in us, something that’s worth being redeemed and set right.