A philosophical page-turner that reads like a therapeutic account of a guilt-filled adolescent with a sense of irony
Two adolescents who experiment with an unused cartridge from an old service rifle that belonged to one of their grandfathers (a Vietnam veteran) is a conceivable story. But it is the fatal consequences and the philosophical implications of this grim event that make Trigger such an unusually refreshing and daring YA novel.
‘Was it an accident, was it manslaughter, or was it murder?’ Mylo worries. ‘That Truth should be anchored in the nerve cells of my brain.’ However, since the cremation of his best friend, Mees, and the lawsuit, and ‘all the nagging and whining’ of the official organisations that are presenting Mylo with their own versions of the story, it seems as if the truth has ‘made a run for it’.
The stream-of-consciousness story that Mylo tells at the urging of his therapist, Bastiaan, sounds completely authentic. The sixteen-year-old effortlessly draws the reader into his worrying mind, aptly switching between philosophical questions about guilt and penance and all kinds of emotions. There’s despair in his outburst when he admits that he’d rather not write anything down because it’s not going to bring Mees back anyway. Frustration and irony resonate in his words when he addresses the organisations that are supposed to help him but just ‘suck him dry like a spider in a web’. And sadness echoes in his childhood memories of Mees, and his mum’s silent grief when his dad left.
The story becomes more of an adventure when Mylo travels to California with his American grandpa, in search of his dad and himself. The road trip results in touching scenes and revisited memories, as the two of them carefully break down the walls around each other’s hearts – until his grandpa reveals his secret about his traumatic wartime past in Vietnam, and Mylo finds himself looking into a horrifying mirror. Is there such a thing as free will? Or is he trapped in an intergenerational pattern? Mylo eventually enters into the ultimate confrontation with himself. Kunst explores the limits of what an adolescent brain can handle, and he does so convincingly: his scintillating language fits Mylo perfectly and the boy captures the reader’s heart.