Book Review: Last Chance California
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A serving of California dreams with a heaping dose of reality
Who doesn’t have a distant dream of a better life lived in sunny California? Maybe you’d spend the morning at the beach, hit the boardwalk for lunch, walk amongst the palm trees on your way home to your condo. Or maybe the reality wouldn’t be so sunny.
Brian Price explores an array of possibilities in his latest novel Last Chance California. Maybe moving there will be the answers to all of Wyatt’s problems, or maybe it will be a hot mess in a hot city.
Wyatt is willing to risk everything to give living in California a shot, even if it means losing everything he currently has. Some might call it running away, as he dives out of a stable long term relationship and away from becoming what his father has proven to be. But it’s a dream that won’t leave Wyatt alone, and unlike most people, he’s daring enough to give it a go.
With a history of abuse nagging at his conscience, Wyatt seems tortured no matter where he is. Thankfully, he isn’t completely alone in his new home state. His childhood friend Summer already lives in sunny San Diego with her financially stable boyfriend, and together they tear up the town, frequenting clubs and bars and taking an obscene amount drugs along the way.
Last Chance California touches on that little voice in the back of most people’s heads that questions what would happen if they ever go after their dreams, no matter the costs. It also magnifies that mostly louder voice that asks what will happen if it all goes wrong. In this case, it does. It’s no surprise to the reader that California doesn’t go the way that Wyatt expected it to.
The first few lines of the book narrate how his dream dies in the spring of 2020, in the very first weeks of what we now know is a long and complicated worldwide pandemic. Soon after this, we’re thrust into a narrative of the year before. Surprisingly this doesn’t prevent me from reading the book with a naive hope that maybe Wyatt can work it all out in Cali.
Price writes the protagonist in a truthful and realistic way. Being familiar with the area in which Wyatt grew up, it’s cozy to read about his experiences at home and the way he carries that upbringing with him to the West Coast. He has created a character that is equal parts lovable and frustrating as he self-sabotages more than one of his opportunities at happiness. While I root for him until the very last word of the book, I can’t help but grip the pages a little harder sometimes so that I can will him into making more of his opportunities or trying a little harder than he ultimately does.
One of strongest ideas in the book surrounds Wyatt’s relationship with his father. His past was riddled with abuse at the hands of his dad, who he seemingly has a decent relationship with in the present. His father is the one who drives with him to California, a road trip that takes up a small amount of pages but speaks volumes about the way we navigate toxic family relationships. Wyatt wants so desperately not to turn into him but still seeks his approval as an adult. Though Price intends this to be a focal point of the story, it plays a smaller part than I would have liked. The drug-fueled parties take precedent a bit too often over stories like these so that it can feel repetitive.
Despite its few faults, I enjoyed this book. So many stories take an unrealistic approach to chasing your dreams. This swipes away at that and gives us a look at what happens when you arrive at your dreams but find out that you’re still you.
Genre: Literary Fiction / Family
Print Length: 330 pages
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