Peter Bognanni’s novel The House of Tomorrow is a writing lesson in the right way to create a difficult character. Sixteen-year-old Jared is a foul-mouthed jerk, but not only does he elicit our sympathy, he’s likable, much like a lot of punks I know. It’s no wonder that the naïve protagonist, Sebastian, falls under Jared’s spell and agrees to be in his band. I also personally fell under the spell of this book because of two of its subjects: Buckminster Fuller, about whom I am somewhat informed, and teenage punk bands, with which I am fondly familiar, having played in groups in the Colorado punk and hardcore scene in the 1980s.
Not only does the book namedrop classic punk bands like the Misfits, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, and Minor Threat, but researching punk is one of the ways Sebastian discovers the world outside the geodesic dome where he lives with his sheltering grandmother. Punk rock is an integral part of the story but the subject headings for the book’s catalog record don’t mention it. They do mention that one of the book’s subjects is “social isolation,” which for lots of teenagers leads to the welcoming communities of punk and metal. Social isolation, or at least annoyance at the prevailing social order, did that for me too (and still does over twenty years later). I’m glad it also lead me to this charming book.