Due to his grandmother's loving (if misguided) influence, Huge is fascinated with noir detectives and fancies himself to be a developing Sam Spade. Anchored to this self-image and further weighed down by his own obsessive nature, Huge is set out on a self-destructive investigate of some incidental vandalism - his first 'real case'.
The mystery elements are entertaining (and, I have to admit, I was shocked by the culprit), but the real story is Huge's coming of age.
As he pedals around town in his last year before junior high, Huge slowly but steadily learns what the difference is between a boy (even a boy detective) and an adult, with all the weighty responsibility and acceptance of human frailty the latter entails. With less-than-subtle references to The Catcher in the Rye, Walden and the Raymond Chandler books, the author is clearly out to describe life for a modern outsider - and he succeeds. Huge is alienated from the world around him in a wide variety of ways (many of them self-created).
Loving and misguided is the overall theme to the book. Everyone around Huge is flawed, but, generally-speaking, well-meaning. His mom doesn't understand him, but tried. His sister oscillates between creepy and supportive, as she battles with her own adolescent problems. His grandmother, his sister's boyfriend, his love interest and his estranged best friend... all good people, just having a hard time struggling with problems of their own. From this point of view, Huge is a surprisingly optimistic novel. People are OK (a little screwy, but they mean well).
Institutions, however, are nowhere near as charitable. Eugene, if you'll pardon the cliche, is a 'failure of the system'. He's bounced forward and backwards in school - surfing his genius intelligence and being dragged down by his terrible behaviour. His mother struggles to support them as her insurance and the school system both compete to make her life miserable. Eugene's grandmother is essentially cheated by her old age home. And the various therapists and counselors all combine to let Eugene down. People may be ok, but the bureaucracy of people is a disaster.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the writing style. Fuerst channels noir fiction exceptionally well - almost too well. Eugene thinks and speaks like a noir detective, and his entire view of the world is colored (or black-and-white) in that particular way. It is a pleasure to read, and provides many of the book's funnier moments. It is also utterly infectious - one of those rare books that, even after putting it down, I still wound up 'thinking' in the same way as Eugene (clearly tapping into my inner 12 year old!)
Huge is a slightly dark and wholly engrossing book. Perhaps the best news is that it is Mr. Fuerst's debut novel, meaning there could be many more to come.