This book had me at the dedication:
Dedicated to the bullied, the parentless and the unique. May the shallow assholes one day envy you.
It’s safe for me to say that I’ve never read a book like Skullface Boy and I likely never will again (unless Chad Lutzke writes it). The protagonist, Levi, has an exposed skull for a face. There is no explanation for this physical condition given and Lutzke doesn’t spend any time on the physical complications of Levi’s unique attribute, but rather the psychological impact having a skullface would have on a young man. I was captivated by the first sentence.
We travel with Levi on his journey to California to find his father. He encounters many people along the way, some helpful, others not so helpful, and some are even dangerous. The pages fly by. I was utterly absorbed into the world of this transient teenager and his endearing, poignant and often hilarious take on every situation. I loved the way the narration reads almost like diary entries — a title for the experience and then Levi’s personality colorfully shading even the most mundane situations like dumpster diving or hitchhiking.
Throughout the book Levi gathers snippets of paper or napkins from restaurants and he writes. He’s always writing. My thought is that’s what we’re reading. As I reveal that right now, my heart is overflowing and I feel like crying. Honestly, this story is something I’ll carry around with me forever. Full disclosure: I read Lutzke’s book Of Foster Homes and Flies right before I read this book and I’m just blown away. These books are full of so much character, heart and soul, I feel like I intimately know twelve year old Denny from Foster Homes and Levi from Skullface Boy — they are characters that I love with a reader’s fierce passion and it’s all because I lived in their shoes. I was with them in their journey through a season of their young life when they felt abandoned, marginalized and lost. Chad tells us their innermost fears and their desire to love and be loved back, and it just crushes you. I’ll show up for anything this author writes. These books are the reason I read, because to write a review that moves me to tears and to have all these feelings bubbling up within me means that something magical happens on these pages.
After finishing the book, I can hear Levi’s voice, the protagonist, in that dedication, but I also hear Chad Lutzke — this story about a 16-year-old boy that escaped his orphanage home to search for his father, is a work of fiction, but it felt as though some of the story was “lived in.” At the end, the author mentions parts of the story were autobiographical. He says, “I’ll let you decide what parts.” I’ve decided Chad Lutzke has a lot of stories to tell and I’m on board for all of them.