Finally, fleeing the quotidian awfulness of their respective lives, mother and son travel to Los Angeles, where instead of healing, they find only the Apocalypse. If all this sounds melodramatic, in Nathan’s skillful, beautifully written telling, it isn’t. He selects his incidents artfully and—in part by shifting the point of view between [protagonist] Colin and his mother—does a masterful job of creating believable, multidimensional characters about whom the reader cares desperately. And if their ending is heartbreaking, it is artistically inevitable. Nathan’s first novel is beautifully done and promises to linger in the reader’s memory.
For the first 25 pages, Patrick Nathan’s debut novel, Some Hell, poses as a conventional coming-of-age tale set in the American suburbs about a young boy struggling with his sexuality. Then it peels that mask off like a replicant to reveal the more sinister creature underneath ... The result is a very different literary thriller, one in which the mystery is not who killed the victim, but how those who kill might live with what they’ve done. And as mother and son head off to their own separate apocalypses, made from their very different complicities, Some Hell becomes a canny and terrifying moral fable about our new and old American ways of both being together and missing each other.
Like one of those stubbornly inclement fall days only intermittently punctuated with patches of blue sky and sunshine, Some Hell declines to subscribe to the 'it gets better' impulse ... Nathan can be heavy-handed in signaling moments when his characters sense a life change. The novel’s ending seems dramatically at odds after so much interiority. But as a meditation on grief and its aftermath, Some Hell is sensitive, incisive and often heartbreaking.
A coming-of-age tale hinges on the precision of its characters, and Some Hell suffers from an overabundance of central casting ... Narrative shocks — an unplanned pregnancy, a closeted relative — are haphazardly deployed, often with neither precedent nor resolution ... If Some Hell sputters as a bildungsroman, it is more successful as a suicide novel for its refreshing lack of judgment ... The book's finest subplot concerns a predatory science teacher, and Colin's alternate terror of and willingness to please a male authority figure. These passages make for alert, timely commentary on the subtlety of abuse ... Nathan's characters — both the quick and the dead — experience hell, but the reader winds up somewhere closer to purgatory.
The writing is compelling, the characters heartbreakingly believable, and, although their circumstances can sound astonishing when described out of context, they are very much like the circumstances that have challenged, tempered, hardened, and sustained me and people I love ... Nathan writes beautifully, without sentimentality. When we think a maudlin moment may have arrived, he yanks our chain ... Notably absent from the book is any attempt to entertain the reader with humor. If we laugh, we laugh with wry recognition ... More clearly than anything else I have encountered, Some Hell shows a person growing into the eroticized experience of punishment, fear, humiliation, and even pain ... instead of settling in with the narrator’s voice and becoming acquainted with the characters, I found myself waiting for a very specific, very big event. Once I had encountered that event, I went back and re-started the book at page one.
Patrick Nathan's debut novel Some Hell is as sharp and merciless a coming-of-age story as has yet to appear in 2018, and it also feels like something of a remedy, a quick restorative after a few too many pale, saccharine versions of itself ... It avoids easy answers, cheap sentimentality, and especially the thinly-described cynical voyeurism that's been characterizing far too much gay fiction in recent years. It has the unevenness that's more or less a defining feature of debut fiction, but its strengths are impressive.
Nathan’s dark debut novel weaves violent sexual fantasies and aggressively self-destructive behavior into a harrowing character study ... Though difficult subject matter pervades the work, some readers will find moments of beauty in the rawness of grief’s confusions and yearning.
A gripping account of the intricately woven mind of a teenager ... the result is intoxicating. Nathan has crafted an all-consuming novel in which topics like suicide, homosexuality, parenting, friendship, and psychology make up a precarious tableau in which readers can leave their own subjectivity behind and experience the world from Colin’s singular viewpoint.