Set in Philly one year into Trump's presidency, Fuccboi follows Sean as he attempts to live meaningfully in a world that doesn't seem to need him. Reconciling past, failed selves—cross-country walker, SoundCloud rapper, weed farmer—he now finds himself back in his college city, beginning to wonder: How sustainable is this mode? How much fuckery is too much fuckery?
Fuccboi is long on style and short on incident, written in a slangy staccato first-person prose that sounds admirably fresh, at least in the early pages, and helps propel the narrative past significant longueurs ... Men are 'bros' and women are 'baes,' while almost all proper names are reduced to initials ... It’s hard not to be amused by a sentence like this, which invites the reader to participate in a coded form of communication, a kind of clubhouse argot—to be one of the baes or bros. At its best Conroe’s prose seduces, and like all good writing, demands a degree of intimacy between narrator and reader. Fuccboi though he may be in certain regards, Conroe’s persona here is endearing in its persistent self-deprecation. He is constantly second-guessing himself, particularly with regard to his masculinity ... We feel his pain, but unfortunately, we don’t feel that of his ex, or any of the other characters in the book, who are more ciphers than characters in the traditional sense. The narrator is a solipsist ... But he’s good company—thoughtful, insecure and questing. And he has a distinctive, compelling voice that strikes me as utterly of its moment ... As bookish as this novel is, it seems like a genuine attempt to speak to some of those who don’t normally give a shit about books...while also being worth the attention of those who do.
The title is a provocation, the jacket copy is offensively ludicrous, the cover art is a joke (a funny one). And because it’s written in a kind of bro speak, any randomly chosen page of Sean Thor Conroe’s first novel, Fuccboi, is liable to provoke mockery. Already, its premise has provided ready-made memes for rubbernecks assuming the author isn’t in on the bit ... It’s not an accident or a taunt that the authorial voice steals liberally from American and British Black vernacular English ... There’s some caricature to the prose, but this language...isn’t wholly unrealistic. It crops up all the time on social media, and routinely prompts debates over the use of Black slang by people who are not Black. In practice, it’s often cringeworthy, and Sean’s justification of his style — that it’s meant to lure 'people who don’t read' — is the most offensive thing about it. But the author is candid about that process of appropriation ... Conroe uses the plausible deniability granted by autofiction to his advantage. Some of his trolling...can be attributed to the character. But sometimes, the text indicts its author. Sean asserts that one of the advantages of being a woman is that 'everyone needed moms; every woman could get paid to be a temporary mom.' It reads like parody but Conroe’s treatment of his female characters echoes the thought: Most of them are caretakers ... The male relationships are more compelling ... This is Conroe’s gift. Deeply tuned into his single character, he’s able to capture evocative moments in a fresh voice ... But Conroe’s investment in Sean, which comes at the expense of everyone else, makes the author less daring than he might otherwise be. Anytime Sean does something 'bad,' he’s redeemed in some way ... And at the end of the book, there’s a scene that I wanted to believe Conroe understood the discomfort of, in which Sean breaks up a domestic dispute between neighbors. But it hewed to the same pattern, and I couldn’t be sure whether or not he, the author, was being an idiot.
The novel is written entirely in FuccboiSpeak, a kind of fusion of street slang and Twitter cant ... Hand-drawn maps of 'Philly in the Time of the Fuccboi' bookend the novel and impart a sense of the epic to Conroe’s book, turning the lonely fuccboi into a sort of Greek hero roaming the streets on his own odyssey ... What Conroe does so excellently is enrapture us within the psyche of this unpleasant figure, entangle us with Sean’s brain worms and force us, reluctantly, to look again ... Dare I be so despotic as to proclaim Fuccboi a necessary novel? You bet I do ... How brilliant to finally have a novel that examines contemporary masculinity with such candour, with such humour and style as to immediately read like a modern classic. Sean Thor Conroe is a real one.