It’s the rare book that can achieve an appropriate balance between heaviness and levity, and it’s my favorite kind of novel. In his debut, Everywhere You Don’t Belong, Gabriel Bump pulls this off not just generously but seemingly without effort ... Just when the prose teeters on the edge of sentimentality, though, he pulls it back with humor ... Propelling the emotional intensity is the novel’s pace. Bump’s short chapters draw us in quickly, urgently, like: Come hear this ... If I had any problem with the book, it was logistical, related to certain plot points inserted seemingly for convenience, but without organic explanation, or even a simple acknowledgment from our narrator. This kind of quibble is both big and small ... Despite this narrative not-so-sleight of hand, Bump’s ending still manages to be unexpected and unromantic, while containing so much love and hope ... Most funny things are funny because they’re real, this book included. I mean real, here, as something distinct from realism; his characters feel true to their environment in ways only an author who has known people like this, has lived a life at least adjacent to this one, could write ... I also believe we as readers have a responsibility to not only call out problematic examples, but also to honor those doing it right, those of any color who are writing about underrepresented or misrepresented communities, and doing the best of what fiction can do at the same time. Gabriel Bump is doing that, has done that.
...an excellent coming-of-age novel that will make you laugh when you least expect it ... Much of the humor in the book comes from these outlandish yet sympathetic characters. Bump has a talent for writing scenes with a combination of absurdity and pathos ... Bump has written a sprawling novel, despite the short length, with sharp bursts of wit that never undermine Claude's predicament. Everywhere You Don't Belong is a book about the tragic absurdity of growing up in a place that you both love and need to leave.
Claude’s reflections on the world around him are sprinkled throughout and are never heavy-handed ... a surprising and exhilarating finish ... That said, after finishing the novel, the opening pages almost seem like throat-clearing. From a plot level, Bump’s novel could arguably start on page 52 and the story would be tighter, wielding the ending to a sharper conclusion ... Bump’s prose is tight and clean, a pleasure to read. He doesn’t waste words or pages with unnecessary description. The characters come to life not through adjectives, but through their dialogue. Paul is so memorable not because of how he’s described or even what he does, but the things he says. Bump’s sentences sizzle with perfectly timed humor and interiority. The novel makes you laugh out loud, but also nod at its poignancy on issues of class and racism ... Part of what makes it possible for the novel to be so on-point about these issues is through these characters who defy stereotypes ... Of all the novel’s virtues, its biggest achievement might be the way it confronts a common narrative of the South Side experience while giving voice to a greater and more universal experience — the spectacular average.