Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison.
Some people get parents—two of them!—who have the time, experience, and resources to help them think through the choices they must make as they approach adulthood. Mike, the central character and narrator of Lawn Boy, doesn’t have that. His mother loves him and wants the best for him and his brother. So she works multiple jobs, misses holiday gatherings, and is often exhausted.
Some people have a friend, a co-worker, or some kind of mentor, who makes an effort to understand them and gives them good perspectives on work, education, and relationships. It seems like people start making assumptions about Mike as soon as they see him or hear his last name. He just not sure whose advice he ought to trust. Nor is he certain about how to present himself to others so that things will work out for him.
Some people reach their teens with clear career goals. They understand themselves enough to know what they like and what they are good at. They have ideas about how to find good-paying work that uses their skills and offers a path for advancement. They know what to do in the short term in order to meet their long-term goals. Mike doesn’t know what he ought to do.
This is a tale of an insightful and compassionate young man taking his first steps into adulthood with inconsistent guidance. He has a tendency to always see the best in people, even though a lot of folks frighten and bewilder him and others take advantage of him outright. He is ironic, kind, and determined, walking a path strewn with promise and humiliations. His innocence can make you cringe.
Mike is no whiner. His sense of responsibility to his mother and brother keep him steady. His insights keep him honest about himself and others. He begins to relax into the relationships that surround him. He discovers who he is and what he can do.
This many-layered story is delivered in uncomplicated and vivid prose. No flashy narrative tricks. Just the voice of an observant young man. A delightful read!