Cover of Parnucklian for Chocolate. A painting of an empty chair and a suitcase

About the Book

Title: Parnucklian for Chocolate
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Welcome Traveler by Ken Grant
Drinking Buddy: My Favorite Cellmate
MPAA Rating: R (sexuality)
Talky Talk: Kurt Lives!
Bonus Factors: Pulp Novels, The Many Loves That Dare Not Speak Their Names
Bromance Status: I Believe You

Cover Story: Welcome Traveler by Ken Grant

According to the back cover, the front cover is a painting called Welcome Traveler. So it’s like an actual work of art. Which is interesting, and somewhat odd, since there’s really nothing about suitcases in this book. But it’s easy on the eye, and kind of has that literary feel about it.

The Deal:

Josiah is an odd boy. He eats nothing but chocolate. Nothing. He has a bad habit of peeing on whatever (or whoever) he feels like. He kind of lives in his own little world.

But it all makes sense. You see, Josiah is the son of an alien from the beautiful planet Parnuckle, where everyone eats nothing but chocolate. Josiah’s father holds the important position of Keymaster of Gortho. Someday he will return for his son and take him back to the home planet.

Why does Josiah believe all this? Because his mother told him so. We’re never told if she’s delusional, a liar, or trying to protect Josiah from the harsh realities of life, but to Josiah, this is absolute gospel. In the meantime, he’s living in a group home.

But hey, things are looking up! Josiah’s mother is getting married to a man named Johnson Davis, who has a daughter named Bree, who is about Josiah’s age. They’re all going to be one big happy family, right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But this is a dark, dark ride. There’s a lot of mental illness, repressed memories, and underage sexuality here. Josiah may believe he comes from a planet where people refer to their butt as a ‘Thomas Magnum’, but he could be the sanest one in this house.

Drinking Buddy: My Favorite Cellmate

Two pints of beer cheersing

Josiah, of course, has a difficult time functioning in school and society. He absolutely believes anything anyone tells him about his Parnucklian father. When he’s away at the group home, Patrick, his roommate and a pulp adventure fan, spins beautiful stories about how he pictures life on another planet. And what Josiah doesn’t know, he simply makes up. He’s like an innocent four-year-old who accepts anything anyone says.

But the world is not an innocent place, and people are not kind to the son of Vinz Clortho. Josiah mistakes lust for love, mockery for camaraderie, and mental illness for parenthood.  You can’t help but root for him. And if I were ever locked in a padded cell, he’s the only one I’d want there with me.

MPAA Rating: R (sexuality)

Josiah has led a very sheltered existence. He’s never had a date and he has no idea what a boy is supposed to do with his Andre Agassi. Bree, on the other hand, is very worldly. She thinks her strange new stepbrother is rather sweet, and promptly shows him just how sweet she can be. Josiah, of course, immediately falls in love. And maybe Bree does as well.

Hey, it’s not incest if they’re not blood relatives, right?

Talky Talk: Kurt Lives!

If this book had been presented to me as a recently discovered, unpublished work by Kurt Vonnegut, I would have believed it without reservation. Blurring the line between science fiction and an insane protagonist? Check. Everyone has a dirty little secret? Check. Long but compelling asides about minor characters? Check. Odd way of phrasing things? Check.

I’m not sure who B.H. James is, but he has a unique way of writing. Josiah’s mother is never named, she’s only called ‘Josiah’s Mother.’ His stepfather is always called Johnson Davis (and subsequently Johnson Davis’s ex-wife, Johnson Davis’s father, etc). When Josiah decides that the woman on a poster is his real mother, she’s always referred to as ‘Cher, the singer and songwriter and actress.’ Every time.

I don’t know if this is how James always writes or just a gimmick for this book. I must read more by him.

Bonus Factor: Pulp Novel

Cover of Doc Savage Adventure The Land of Terror. He fights a dinosaur in that same ripped shirt

Patrick, Josiah’s roommate at the group home, loves a series of books about a hero named Dutch Lucas, a used car salesman who hunts for treasure and fights crime in his spare time (another Vonnegut connection, the book within a book). I know this was just a plot device, but I really, really want to read these. Especially the one with the Cyclops.

Bonus Factor: The Many Loves That Dare Not Speak Their Names

Cropped cover of Flowers in the Attic

Amazingly, what happens between Bree and Josiah isn’t the only incident of dancing around the whole ‘crimes against nature’ thing. It’s times like this that I’m glad I’m not a high school librarian, because it would be a hard decision whether I wanted to shelve a book that’s both so compelling and so dirty. So I’ll give the book to the local high school and let them make the decision.

Bromance Status: I Believe You

I know this is a work of fiction, and I know Planet Parnuckle doesn’t exist, but I don’t care. I still believe it. It’s out there. It’s real.

FTC Full Disclosure: I got a free copy of this from Red Hen press, which apparently exists in a cave under Tibet and only emerges every fifty years to publish a strange and amazing book. But they were still too cheap to slip me a fifty.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.