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Under the Overpass by J.E. Muzuarieta (BOOK REVIEW) 3/5

I put this book off far too long- reading it nearly a year after having initially bought it. It slipped through my fingers for a while, and I have to admit that I probably avoided it due to the content I was expecting. I knew that this would be a dark read, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for. Part of me wondered whether the message of the struggling homeless population would lack story, whether the fiction would read as non-fiction. I’m pleased to say those worries were unfounded. Sure, this book recounts true horrors, the reality of what it’s like to be homeless and the mentality that follows that existence, but it has a story all its own. I found myself following the characters with hopes that they would triumph. Unfortunately, this is a story as cruel as life itself, so that was not the case.

I enjoyed scenes with Cory, a transvestite by her own definition, who painstakingly saved thousands of dollars to undergo her surgery, and Zorro, a spunky, energy-filled guy who did jobs for everyone and anyone. The side characters were as strong or stronger as the main characters, with distinct personalities and speech, and I always count that as a sign of a good novel. They’re memorable, and I wanted more of them. In comparison, I did have a bit of difficulty connecting to the main characters. I connected mostly to Ryan and Lori- but I found myself sorely disappointed in the ends they met. I believed in them overcoming, in Ryan’s health, in Lori’s sexual abuse coming to light, in some kind of pay off or resolution. But this story does not have a happy ending. It’s true that not every story needs to have a happy ending, but in a lot of ways, I felt like many of the story lines didn’t have any pay off at all. I was sorely disappointed in the endings some characters got, and the abrupt way things played out. To me, there were several lacking story arcs.

However, the writing itself is nothing short of impressive. I found the use of language to be extraordinarily well done, and I enjoyed unflinching descripts. Mr. Muzarieta does not shy away from the depravity in this novel, and as a lover of honest, true horror, I really respect that. However, there is extremely dirty subject matter all throughout the book, so I have to caution those who wish to read it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea- and it shouldn’t be. Sometimes people have to read the dark to appreciate the light.

One small detail to mention; I wish the book itself had been better quality. This is through no fault of the author, but the paperback seemed extraordinarily frail, and the cover permanently bent within only a few days of use. I take care of my books, I love my books, but something about the material of this one made it easily bend and fray, and that was unfortunate.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I hated some aspects of the ending, but the reason it has such a high score is because of the quality of the writing, and some of the fantastic scenes within. I would recommend it to those who aren’t afraid of facing ugly realities, and those who don’t mind a book where there is no true happy ending.

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