“In Last Night’s Clothes” is an admirable first novel from 22-year old author Hayden Smith. His prose swings like a jazz tune and his dialogue flows with syncopated rhythm.
This is a quick read, not because of its length (193 pages in PDF form) but because the story moves fast and always leaves the reader curious to see what happens next.
The book chronicles two years in the life of Colin Prescott while he deals with coming-of-age in trend-conscious L.A. The character’s age parallels Smith’s own age at the time of writing, allowing the author to draw upon real experiences and a keen insight into the mind of young adults.
The text is presented as a series of letters to an unnamed recipient but that is only apparent in the first two chapters and again in the last chapter. It is easy to forget the letter device as the novel progresses. At times it reads like a journal and almost like a screenplay when the dialogue takes over..
The book is rife with teenage angst held over into young adulthood. Prescott faces the dichotomies of betrayal and loyalty, depression and elation as well as empathy and apathy.
Smith, who also performs comedy, imbues a dark humor throughout the narrative. In the first chapter Prescott proclaims, “ I am the perfect gentleman on the outside and anything but on the inside. Why shouldn’t I be? Love is hell and lust is rapture.”
Prescott deals with all the temptations of youth; drugs and alcohol, sexual experimentation and many sexual trysts. He has a compelling need to fit in with the L.A. hipster crowd. He spends most of his time at parties and clubs while dealing with relationships, family problems, school, work, teen suicide and finally self-discovery.
The character comes off as a bit of an egomaniac. His friends see him as cool and together, not realizing Prescott’s underlying sense of self-doubt. His mother sees him as a loser and his estranged father is ambivalent.
Smith’s protagonist comes from a broken home. His parents have divorced and each has remarried. Prescott is the middle child and lives with his mother and younger step-brother, Parker, though he is rarely at home. Prescott’s relationships with his siblings are the first signs of a deeper side to his personality.
He is jealous of the attention his mother rains upon Parker but obviously loves and respects him. Parker is a talented guitarist with the potential of a bright future. Prescott’s sister, Traci, lives with their father and his wife who doesn’t care for Prescott. Traci is a UC Berkeley graduate and their father’s favorite.
He has an antagonistic relationship with his mother, outwardly displaying hostility and resentment. Having been the middle child, Prescott felt ignored and isolated. He also discovers how that gave him a certain freedom which leads him to most of his problems.
In the end Prescott’s journey to the edge of darkness and back finally results in a degree of self-awareness and acceptance of himself and his loved ones. Though the story has many dark moments, it is essentially a feel good novel and should leave the reader with a sense of relief.
Smith invested three years into writing the book which he began at age 19. Most of that time was spent attending GCC. Smith’s character lives in the fictional town of Villa Valle and attends an unnamed community college.
“In Last Night’s Clothes” is available on Amazon Kindle and at http://barnesandnoble.com
Smith has also written and self-published a book of poems titled, “Les Saisons” which is available at http://amazon.com.
4 out of 5 stars