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A good coming-of-age novel is interesting in that, even if the main character's experience is vastly different from the reader's, the reader still feels the nostalgia. Twenty-Sided Die is a good coming-of-age novel. It's a series of vignettes following the lives of five young men who play Dungeons & Dragons together. 

I was a nerd of a different ilk in my youth; I tried D&D once, but it didn't really take. The boys I knew who played D&D (and they were all boys, actually) were as varied as Prisco's characters: some were the stereotypically socially awkward geeks, some were socially adept and intelligent (if physically lacking in various ways), and there were even a rare few who were athletic and popular and hid their D&D fetishes from their teammates and girlfriends.

Prisco paints his characters with stark, but loving brushstrokes. He's almost harsh in his descriptions of some of the boys -- fat, acne-ridden, arrogant, awkward. But his affection for his characters shines through in his narration of their daily lives, their inner monologues, their vivid fantasy adventures, and their secrets. Like Steinbeck, he finds the beauty in the mundane, a reminder that even those whom society disdains have secret pains and joys and worth.

If Prisco's Boogeymen was an homage, then Twenty-Sided Die is a love song -- a bittersweet ode to what was, what is, and what could have been.

 


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