Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Killmer-Purcell
Josh Killmer-Urcell’s first novel is a treat to read. Known for his New York Times-bestselling memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days, Candy Everybody Wants is a rags-to-riches roller coaster.
The central character, Jayson Blocher, was convinced from an early age of both his homosexuality and his fate to be famous. Jayson (with a Y for extra flair) has a family worthy of Augusten Burroughs. His mother is a would-be artist and serial monogamist. His brother suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome. Along with the twin neighbors Trey and Tara, Jayson makes the pilot for “Dallasty,” hoping it will catapult him to fame. This cast, along with other eccentrics encountered along the way, fill Jayson’s meteoric rise and, equally as quick, demise.
The opening of the novel is set in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Kilmer-Purcell spent part of his childhood in the southeastern Wisconsin town. I found the total craziness of this portion of the book the most creative and endearing. Through a series of twists and turns, the author takes Jayson through the ups and downs of stardom. The remainder of the book is essentially a meditation on fickle fame.
Candy reminded me of Oliver Twist. In both, a boy goes from improbable adventure to the next. Unlike the warm feelings that the reader develops for Dickens’ creation, the reader would often like to slap Jayson. Kilmer-Purcell has captured the arrogance of many childhood stars. One bright spot is the aging actress, Helen Lawson. Her alcohol-soaked reflections on her fading star provide a witty foil to Jayson.
Readers will enjoy this novel as long as they approach it as a bon-bon, something that is pleasing in a frivolous way. It’s perfect for the last evenings on the porch or the first by the fireplace.