It’s a subzero Chicago morning on January 23 1989 and Seamus is at his fighting best. Braving the bitter cold at the 85A bus stop Seamus rails against his repressive environment in anticipation of his “the-minute-I-turn-18” move to London.
Liberated by failure when kicked out of school for yet another late appearance Seamus makes a break for London via an Amtrak to the mean streets of Late Eighties Manhattan.
85A tracks a watershed day in the life of an adolescent antihero. Foulmouthed with a capital F-word Seamus embodies Johnny Rotten as a way of fending off the bullies at home at school and in his whites-only neighborhood. Luckily his mixed-raced friend Tressa opens him up to experiences that turn his worldview on its head. Through it all Seamus basks in BBC dramas dreaming of what life would be if only he could stow away to London.
By the time Seamus reaches his last L stop he will come to see that his 85A ride that morning was just the kickoff to an intrepid urban odyssey.
Kyle Thomas Smith is a writer in Brooklyn New York.
“85A is blessed with one of the most appealing and unique narrators I’ve come across in fiction in a while. The vivid city of Chicago with its punks and bohemians its neighborhoods and graffiti and breathtakingly cold winters is very nearly a character in itself. This is an exciting and sharply-written debut.”– Emily St.John Mandel TheMillions.com
“If Holden Caulfield the angst-ridden teenage protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye had been gay and come of age in the post-punk youth culture of the 1980s what would he have been like? Seamus O’Grady of course! While Smith’s protagonist clearly owes much to his literary predecessor he stands on his own as a unique representation of teenage "rage against the machine " in the same way that 85A like Catcher in the Rye evokes its own unique place in time. Like Holden Seamus serves as an important reminder of the universal urge to self-define in a world hostile to anyone who dares to be different.”– M.M. Adjarian Edge on the Net
"[Seamus'] treatment at the hands of his family and his teachers is heart-wrenching."-Booklist