Into the Wasteland is the story of Dixon Carter and his journey of figuring out life, death and who he really is.
Dixon is dark, even though he’s a high school student with a girlfriend, a best friend and supportive parents, who he doesn’t even hate despite the typical teenage angst of not wanting to live by their rules. He comes off the meds that support his condition (which remains unlabeled throughout the novel) and begins a battle against tumultuous highs and lows, fighting a darkness that looms behind him, waiting to sweep him into the abyss—or the dark wasteland he is so afraid of.
This YA novel starts with a short prelude, where Dixon apologizes for taking the reader down such a dark road. He explains it’s necessary to tell his story. We are then taken through Dixon’s journal, chronicling the first nine days off his meds. Then tragedy strikes and we are met with chapter one.
Each chapter is headed with a line from T.S Eliot’s “The Waste Land”, the quotes hinting at what may come next, though readers need not know the poem or make the connection for the story to stand. There is also a spiritual subtext through out the book.
In his prelude, Dixon tells the reader that along the way something happens and he gives up on himself, and his story, and almost doesn’t come back, but that “a story without an ending is in itself a tragedy”. This will propel the reader to the end of the story to find out what happens, even though Dixon is not a particularly likeable protagonist.
The interview with the author at the back of the book sheds light on Dixon and some of the other characters, as well as some of the decisions the author made.
Knowing that Lesley Choyce is a poet and surfer himself, we see part of him—or at least his personal interests, reflected in this book—Dixon is an aspiring poet and Choyce goes as far as including his own poetry, “I’m Alive, I Believe in Everything” into the novel, a poem Dixon finds “floating around the internet.”
Surfing plays a pivotal part of Dixon’s story, though not until the very end of the book. In fact, the story takes 150 pages to cover two weeks time and 12 pages to span several years—several years that sound like a good book in and of themselves. Readers may be curious to discover more about this time in Dixon’s life.
But that was not the tale to be told here, as Dixon recounts the journey to his own personal wasteland, a journey that leads to important revelations on life, death and choosing to live.
Into the Wasteland
By Lesley Choyce
$12.95, paperback, 174 pp.
Red Deer Press, October 2014
Young Adult fiction