Innocence Waning is set in Melbourne, Australia. It tells the story of precocious sixteen-year-old Chezdon Morrison. He is not only coming to terms with his sexuality but is dealing with dysfunctional adults and his sense of identity. He has an addictive personality, faces the rigours of attending a private school and overcomes the unfortunate spoils of reality and how the world will, in turn, react to the choices he makes.
Mitchell gives Chezdon a strong voice and a stronger personality that take a little while to get comfortable with, but soon readers will be hooked. He does not shy away from depravity—the debauched afternoon among the boys is a virtuoso sequence—but it is the sweet relationship that develops between Chezdon and Austin that appeals most. It’s frustrating to watch Chezdon actively jeopardize that relationship while trying to get what he thinks he wants. Chezdon is highly impulsive, and the plot mostly consists of him careening from one bad decision to another.
Mitchell is best with ambiguities, such as Chezdon’s relationship with Jayden, which varies from intimate to antagonistic. The starker elements get too hectic for Chezdon (and the reader) to process. The dialogue and narration are also uneven, encompassing both accurate teen speak and highly didactic exchanges. Some awkward word choices (“drink from the ejaculating showerhead”) and vivid descriptions of bodily functions disrupt the narrative, but one erotic sex scene proves Mitchell can write effectively. Readers will likely see where Chezdon’s downward slide is going, but will be eager to see whether he can put himself back together in part two.
Takeaway: Older queer teens will enjoy living vicariously through the sex, drugs, and drama of Mitchell’s gay coming-of-age novel.
Great for fans of Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin, Bret Easton Ellis.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B-
The Second Edition of Innocence Waning has been released for distribution. It contains minor edits and both printed editions of the books now have updated covers which will differentiate themselves from what is available on Amazon.