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Citrus County Hardcover – July 6, 2010

43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brandon (Arkansas) finds shards of redemption in the swampy backwaters of Florida in his funny and horrifying latest. When Shelby Register moves to Citrus County, Fla., with her single father and little sister, she's expecting "surfers instead of rednecks," but the precocious teen makes the best of it. Things get screwy when Toby, a neglected, loveless boy living with his abusive uncle, becomes her twisted love interest. Toby finds trouble far more elaborate than ordinary delinquency when he enacts a strange, cruel plot on the Register clan. Presiding over it all in his own confused state is Mr. Hibma, a young teacher draped in irony and disaffection who lectures on the evils of capitalism, avoids his colleagues, and wants to do good but isn't sure how. As the Register family's misery deepens, Shelby begins to test boundaries, Toby realizes that he can't reverse the effects of his "prank," and his and Shelby's braided fates hurtle toward either tragedy or a narrow miss. Brandon's dry wit, dark imagination, and surprisingly big heart combine to reveal a Florida that, despite (or because of) being more Ted Bundy than Disney World, is absolutely worth visiting.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“With Citrus County John Brandon joins the ranks of writers like Denis Johnson, Joy Williams, Mary Robison and Tom Drury, writers whose wild flights feel more likely than a heap of what we’ve come to expect from literature, by calmly reminding us that the world is far more startling than most fiction is. He subverts the expectations of an adolescent novel by staying true to the wild incongruities of adolescence, and subverts the expectations of a crime novel by giving us people who are more than criminals and victims. The result is a great story in great prose, a story that keeps you turning pages even as you want to slow to savor them, full of characters who are real because they are so unlikely."
New York Times Book Review

"I finished the novel a true believer: that Citrus County is gorgeous and deserves to be read widely; and that John Brandon is a great young writer who can—and probably will—do just about anything."
—Lauren Groff, San Francisco Chronicle

"[Brandon] focuses not on the charms of manatees and meandering rivers but on decaying strip malls, abandoned subdivisions and the claustrophobic side of small-town life. He gives us a vividly realistic picture of a place teeming with swamps, sinkholes and insects, "creatures with stingers and pincers and scorn in their hearts" — and a human population with much the same attitude.… Brandon draws his characters so deftly that we can be horrified and intrigued by them at once, and his plot just as deftly avoids cliches."
—Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

"If you care at all about books, and what they can do, then this dirty realism is for you.… There are very few writers who are as adept at stripping a sentence down to its very essence; nor are there many whose sentences leave a reader so black and blue."
—John Hood, Miami Sun-Post

"[A] chilling and dispiriting new novel... this book is impossible to put down."
—Jim Ross, Ocala Star-Banner

"Citrus County luxuriates in the blighted majesty of rural America.… The narrative is bracing, concerning teenage lovers who find themselves in a true-crime caper gone awry. What makes [Brandon] unique is his empathy toward the community at large. He is concerned not only with the key players, but also with the people affected by their actions, those characters usually ignored like the collateral damage many authors consider them to be. What results is a novel suffused with musky swamp air, teenage love, and mosquito bites."
—Paul M. Davis, SF Weekly

"[Citrus County is] not an easy book. One doesn't want to imagine that cold-blooded quasi-sociopaths are on the local eighth grade track team. But Brandon's unflinching look at the devastated inner life of his characters is so unerring that it's hard to look away. Exactly as they planned, by unleashing their most macabre impulses these characters become more vibrant, impossible to ignore."
—Janet Potter, Bookslut

"John Brandon's macabre novel Citrus County is at once touching, funny, and terrifying. Definitely an odd (and extremely rare) combination, but Brandon is a master at creating greatly flawed, believable characters who jump off the page and into our memories. Brandon's debut novel Arkansas greatly impressed me and landed on my favorite novels of 2008 list. Citrus County is a worthy successor, a book that haunts as well as it entertains."
Largehearted Boy

"Last night I stayed up late because I had to finish John Brandon's upcoming novel Citrus County. And when I say I had to finish, I mean I was compelled! Gripped! Creeped out! I was nervous about what might happen to the various characters in their various states of peril! John Brandon is a wonderful writer in a literary way but not MERELY. I mean, there's real suspense. Sometimes writers get all beautiful on you and forget to remind you to turn the pages. Not John Brandon! He does it all."
—Jack Pendarvis

“Pursues relentlessly what each of us might find daily in a Florida town… The purity of thought and of unadorned line are remarkable.”
—Barry Hannah

“John Brandon is my favorite new writer. His debut, Arkansas, was hilarious and at the same time disturbing in its detached violence. It set a high bar, and Citrus County nudges that bar even higher. This is a writer to watch, to reread, and to envy.”
—Tom Franklin

“Brandon writes of fatigue, longing, and finally love, with an energy and wit that is victorious and entirely his own.”
—Deb Olin Unferth

Citrus County is a real charmer, infused with a kind of rueful hilarity that reminded me of the great Tom Drury. The book makes you laugh even as it breaks your heart, and it may be, among other things, one of the best books about junior high ever written.”
—Dan Chaon

“John Brandon is a prose marksman—half Denis Johnson, half Elmore Leonard.”
—Davy Rothbart

“John Brandon isn’t the only writer documenting the dissolving of American communities, but he may be the funniest. His criminals are like no others I know, and his dialogue feels like the wild original of something domesticated in most novels.”
—Marshall Klimasewiski

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's; 1 edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934781533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934781531
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on July 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If Raymond Chandler wrote of a teenage anti-hero (instead of the middle-age Philip Marlowe), it might be Toby of "Citrus County." This is a small book that reads quickly -- the writing is not complex but the story is. The characters of Shelby and Toby are perfectly captured with all the teenage angst of not fitting in and of going where they can to fit in. While the novel is not exactly uplifting, it is a realistic tale of life in a Florida middle school and of the choices that Toby makes. "Citrus County" could be set anywhere with Shelby's single parent family and with Toby as a victim of child abuse. This is a book worth reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Proof on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I expected hilarious (I didn't really do my homework for fear of spoilers, just read a posted excerpt of the opening and the word "McSweeney's") but got harrowing. So know this: By the end, the title feels more like "Chinatown" than "Margaritaville" -- infused with dread.

The whole journey becomes a major heart workout, with this agonizing stress growing out of what you're continuously not allowed to see. What we ARE allowed to see is exceptionally intelligent people, two adolescents and one charmingly stunted adult, dealing with their developing senses of self while hemmed in by hopelessness. Their dialogue is a joy to read, because it's a kind of fantasy version of what SHOULD be said in any given situation, if only, say, the damaged teen girl were stronger and smarter, the vulnerable outcast love interest were more blunt (and simultaneously mysterious, because his reality is so spare), or the hipster teacher were more truly reckless. Before long you'll feel an aching tenderness for each of the three main characters despite their mounting and consequential mistakes. That's because Brandon convinces you that they're all giving of themselves more than they think they can, even as they protect themselves in ways that make their flaws snowball.

So this almost feels like two books: what's happening (on the achy, comic surface) and what's HAPPENING (the evil you know of but, agonizingly, can barely glimpse). An edgy coming of age novel and a crime novel. For the most part, that's a successful, if maddening, pairing. Both sides of the book work and, though they clash tonally, they exist somehow in a kind of balance.

One or two things keep the book from working perfectly.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By avidfiction on July 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
John Brandon is at it again with his 2nd novel "Citrus County". Brandon brings Citrus County to life around this story of adolescence, teen romance and true evil. It's as if Brandon dropped me off in the woods of Citrus County and sped off. I felt I was deserted there, left to observe, watching the lives of these folks intertwine for days over one shocking event. Impossible to put down, Citrus County keeps you guessing, throws in a few laughs and even makes you cringe. Another great novel from a true storyteller.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on August 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm actually giving a 3.5 star rating to this strange book , which impressed me as something of a "Catcher-in-the-Rye" type novel--but much more macabre and disturbing. It delves primarily into the lives and minds of troubled and eccentric teens and adults, most of whom are given a sympathetic treatment overall.

What marks the book as special, is that is is also suspenseful and epsiodically funny. The narrative flow remains very smooth, as it alternates between characters. It won't be for everyone, but it's well worth a look.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason W. Stuart on January 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It seems from the rogues gallery featured here in the reviews section of this title that Mr. Brandon has collected his fair share of enemies already in his short time as author. One finds some of these reviews (and reviewers) so utterly pallid and malicious as to intimate some underlying personal vendetta, or even some professional jealousy. An RLT, in particular, finds it indeed necessary to go above and beyond any semblance of an attack on the book itself (the only legitimate gripe to be made regarding a single title) as to personally attack the character and integrity of the author himself. He writes, mockingly, of Mr. Brandons biographical note, "I am not part of your frigging elite. I worked in a Frito Lay warehouse and a Sysco warehouse while I wrote this book I was also unemployed during part of the time I wrote the book. While I revised it, my great talent was recognized when I had an important creative writing fellowship at an important university. But don't get it wrong. I am a regular fellow. My favorite recreational activity is watching college football, not reading or writing or anything egghead. I am an aggressively non-elite person. "

It seems Mr(s). RLT's biggest problem with the book is that Mr. Brandon has not lived a life of luxury, nor does he sweep his interest in "common" recreations under the rug and instead pander toward, well, to whatever higher order culture RLT ascribes. Are the concepts of literature and football so irreconcilable? This is asinine.

For most uninvolved readers of contemporary fiction, take all reviews (including this one) with a heavy dose of salt. We seem to have a genuine, old-fashioned case of a personal grudge at work.
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