Book: Play the Devil
Author: Scott Laudati
In his first novel, Play the Devil, Scott Laudati tackles the common coming-of-age story with a refreshing take on the classic cliché. Using dark humour (sometimes bordering on the macabre) to reveal some uncomfortable truths, this contemporary novel takes place in at the beginning of a modern New Jersey summer, with Laudati introducing us to two childhood friends trying to survive one of the hottest days of the year as pool cleaners.
The main protagonist, Londi, has just dropped out of college and, for reasons I won’t give away, becomes homeless after his not-so-triumphant return to his parents’ home. In one of the only cases of good fortune in the novel, he is picked up by an old friend, Frankie Gunnz, the suburban rebel, and given a job as a pool boy.
The novel takes places over a 24-hour period as the two 20-somethings go from home to home, using alcohol, drugs, and deepening resentment of their social station to fuel their systems and see the day through. Both Frankie and Londi complement one another well, with Frankie as the all-American kid with an obscene work ethic and company loyalty, and Londi as the disillusioned drop-out struggling with self-pity and a sense of entitlement. During the course of the novel Londi encounters an old high school crush, deals with absurd clients, faces some of his own demons and begins to comprehend a familiar lesson most of us must also learn ? life gives back only what’s put into it.
Play the Devil gives a brutal look into the mind of these directionless youths, who are grappling with being the instigators of their own lives and hunting for a sense of purpose. Although the majority of his commentary uses humor as a platform, Laudati also takes gritty looks into the lives of some of the supporting characters Londi and Frankie encounter?including an alcoholic cop with a skepticism of love and women, and an exhausted single mother starved for scraps of affection. Although each encounter is only a few pages long, these characters are so expertly developed that they could easily be people the reader has encountered in their own daily grind.
If the idea of truth illuminated in harsh light, with a heavy dose of comedic tragedy appeals to you, pick up Play the Devil. Maybe even pick it up if you’re unsure?without pulling punches in his storytelling, Laudati is able to relate to a reader in an uncommon, rarely experienced sort of way. With an ending that breathes hope into an otherwise bleak outlook of Londi and Frankie’s future, the only disappointment to be found in this novel is having it end primarily unresolved. That shouldn’t deter the reader, though, as the story is most definitely one worth investing in.
Sarah is a psychology major at Athabasca University. With a keen interest in story telling she spends most of her free time consuming fictional media in the forms of novels, music and gaming.