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Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High
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Young Adult Discussions > Todd Sweeney, the Fiend of Fleet High, by David Pratt

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Ulysses Dietz | 1560 comments Toddy Sweeney, the Fiend of Fleet High
By David Pratt
Hosta Press, 2019
Four stars

Every gay boy needs an ally who will kill for him.

I had been waiting anxiously for this book to appear; and then waited anxiously some more to begin reading it. Finally, I dragged it to the front of my e-reader backlog and just dug in. I knew it would make me squirm, and indeed it did. However, it also brought tears to my eyes, which was not at all what I expected.

This is a young adult novel, although it pushes the edges of the definition of that genre, for sure. It also pushes some other edges, and I’m not talking about the violence. The book’s characters are all somewhat familiar (intentionally) from the world of Young Adult literature, but in David Pratt’s hands they have all been, um, put off kilter. The story of Todd Sweeney and his friends is a spoof, but a spoof that is deadly serious and deeply heartfelt. It is, if you will, a high-school vengeance comedy romance. It is written for young people, gay and straight, and for all of us old gay people who were young once.

To confess up front, I have always avoided every possible incarnation of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I have never seen any version of it, or even listened to the music. The idea of a YA LGBT-themed novel inspired by it pushed lots of my buttons. The great slight-of-hand of Pratt’s narrative is the fact that he keeps the tone light, a bit sit-com-ish. The light-heartedness of the author’s writing leavens the real horror of the situation: the profound evil of people (mostly men) who have power over others; the powerlessness of children; the powerlessness of (some) women; and the violent response to the despair engendered by that powerlessness. Somehow Pratt makes this all amusing, without making it any less serious.

Pratt does not simply dive headlong into a revenge fantasy. He never loses sight of the moral balance, and the inherent conflict in the hearts and minds of his oddball heroes. Doing bad things in the name of good isn’t quite as easy as one might think. Self-justification is not given without self-doubt. Todd Sweeney is a big dopey jock; but he is never self-deluded. He knows himself, and thus we can embrace him. Maybe forgive him. Maybe wish him well.


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