Charles Bock is a recent escapee from writer’s purgatory, said Charles McGrath in The New York Times. For 11 long years, the Las Vegas native struggled to cram the strange world of his hometown into a first novel, and for 11 long years he had neither an agent nor a publisher to validate his effort. “I felt like someone who had been building a bomb in the basement,” he says. “It was a good question whether or not it was going to blow up in my face.” Bock’s Beautiful Children, released earlier this week, is instead one of the most buzzed-about books of the new year. The mere fact that it may now find an audience, Bock says, is reward enough.
Bock should have worked in obscurity a little longer, said John Burdett in The Washington Post. The prose in Beautiful Children is often self-indulgent and the book’s complex structure obscures its strength. But by making his protagonist a teen runaway, Bock has found a way to show how contemporary America lets down most of its young people, and that makes his unpolished novel a work of “extraordinary importance.” Though Bock himself never ran away from home, said Julie Seabaugh in Las Vegas Weekly, he admits he was a very unhappy teenager. “I very much remember that feeling of not wanting to be somewhere. The feeling of wanting to get away from basically everything, including yourself,” he says. “Was it me or was it growing up in Las Vegas? That’s a good question.”