Book Review: Pop Kids by Davey Havok

Editor Tommy Dean, Fiction, July 10th, 2013

Havok dedicates so much of the book to scrupulously describing sex...

davey havok
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I assume a large percentage of Davey Havok’s book sales for his premiere literary effort Pop Kids came from the scores of fans he has garnered from his long-running East Bay hardcore outfit AFI, and later project, Blaqk Audio. While these eager readers probably expected something as skillfully put together and darkly intriguing as the author himself, what they got was a book that reads like a series of amateur porn scripts spliced with a teen-trash erotica novel.

Pop Kids is an attempt to portray 21st century youth—a generation steeped in nihilism and narcissism at the hands of vapid contemporary culture and impulse-indulgent social media. The story is told from the perspective of a 17-year-old named Score Massi (as in Martin Scorsese), who has a metrosexual obsession with fashion and an affinity for Britpop. Score has fantasies of celebrity grandeur, so to kick-start his life in show-business, he hosts VIP film screenings in an abandoned hotel in the suburbs of Northern California’s wine country. These parties grow in popularity and notoriety as they successively spiral out of control, degenerating into a cesspool of adolescent orgies and circle jerks.

This is a book of self-indulgence. Exposition and development is forgone in favor of pandering descriptions that slow the story to a crawl. The three-hundred-plus pages could have been culled to half the volume if nonsensical narration like, “…the glowing shelter deepens the darkness, quavering at the edge of its reach,” or “A collective groan of compression heaves out of our flesh mound…” was rightfully 86’d from the text. The book is further convoluted with cringe-inducing metaphors of neo-noir corniness and erratic use of italics that’s as pointless as it is confusing.

There’s nothing wrong with reveling in licentiousness, but Havok dedicates so much of the book to scrupulously describing sex, he neglects his storyteller duties. Any semi-intriguing plot points he introduces that could enhance the narrative, such as the protagonist’s penchant for pyromania, a possible murder, or one of the characters getting impregnated, is abandoned in favor of pithy dialogue, witty asides, and a distorted pseudo-love story that never comes to fruition. There are only a handful of writers who can craft a story with little-to-no plot trajectory and still have it be a worthwhile read; Havok doesn’t possess the wordsmith chops to pull it off, and by the final page, the reader is left wondering, “That is it?”

Incorporating subculture references into a piece must be done with discrepancy, but Havok fails to heed the line between kitsch and culture. As a result, Pop Kids is fan-boy masturbation material, better suited for 15-year-olds looking for new bands to download on their parents’ PC, than it is for readers who listened to AFI in their heyday. The characters are the agents of the incessant music references, which turns them into cartoonish, two-dimensional caricatures: an indie-pop football player, gay Mexican black metal lovers, the vegan straight edge protagonist who prays to Morrissey…the list goes on…bro-ish dubstep deejay… Dead Boys-loving punk…kombucha-swilling hippies. The author should take notes from Charles Romalotti’s Salad Days and George Tabb’s Surfing Armageddon, which both employ punk rock as a backdrop, but don’t neglect to hone a foreground of substance with apt character portrayal and meaningful dialogue.

Years from now, Pop Kids may be a Bible for the next wave of emaciated Morrissey fans and subculture enthusiasts, but presently it stands as the botched first attempt of an artist trying to cross over. Hopefully next time Havok will map out where he wants his narrative to go and hire an editor who can pick out the typos, rather than focusing on the clever design aesthetics of his book and the sleek website he uses to brand it.

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Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean is a New England native, one-time Bay Area denizen, and a current Midwest resident. He’s worked as an assistant editor and content writer to pay the bills, but likes to spend his afternoons crafting his caffeine high at the local coffee shop while typing madly about whatever enters his mind. Follow him on Twitter @tommymdean or check out his misadventures here.