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Our Book of the Week Is...

Up All Night
by Tom Scilipoti

Catcher in the Rye-like in spirit, but with hope and faith in place of cynicism, Up All Night is a forty-day odyssey through the mind of a deeply religious, yet funny, late teen struggling to make sense of a world that is growing ever nonsensical—Post-9/11 America.

Baptized Catholic but lost in a culture driven by sex, drugs and superficiality, Chris Castile starts to try to find his way back to his religious roots. His best friend’s minister father passed away one year earlier, and his hungry soul is finally ready for the challenge of seeking God. This all sounds ideal—if only it were that simple.

Manic depression runs in the Castile family, and, as Chris sobers up, his mental health ironically declines. As a result, he no longer can sleep, nor can he stop racing after Truth. The results make for a story that surely will not put you to sleep.


Saint Augistine's Confessions on E
Not very often does a young aspiring writer come along and capture readers with a first novel. On Tuesday June 12 however rookie novelist and 2003 graduate of the John Carroll School, Tom Scilipoti was celebrating just that in tribute to his book, Up All Night (Publish America 2007). In celebration of and in promotion for the novel, Scilipoti held a book signing at the English Country Manor Clubhouse in Bel Air, Maryland. More than one hundred people - friends, family, teachers, and fans alike - gathered to purchase a copy and have it signed by Scilipoti. Working within the coming of age genre, Up All Night gives a startlingly poignant and oftentimes humorous look at an adolescent male struggling to find himself in a seemingly indifferent world--a world where the search for truth and enlightenment has been replaced by the search for pleasure and intoxication. The novel's protagonist, Chris Castile, describes in an autobiographical tone the events that took place during the summer of 2004 when Castile and his friends lived in "Beach City," Maryland. However, what Castile quickly realizes is that, although the beach has always been his refuge of outer peace--sand soccer, vacation, the boardwalk, inner peace is nowhere to be found. This is made evident in the opening lines of the novel that recount Castile's distressingly analytical questions and reflections on God and how to live a meaningful life. Throughout the novel these questions continue to reappear, always present in the mind of Castile. The reader soon discovers that these questions and, consequently, the changes taking place within Castile are possibly the products of a decline in his mental health, which is transforming at a rate faster than Castile can think. He stays awake through the nights, experiences spiritual revelations, and receives profound insights, among many other life-changing experiences. Thus, a constant theme in the novel is Castile's difficulty discerning between mental deterioration and spiritual revelation: should Chris Castile accept his insights as living signs of God's grace or should he analyze them rationally and attribute his experiences to insomnia or some other mental disorder? Castile does demonstrate many signs of mental illness but he also shows signs of brilliance through his profound insight into what 18th century poet William Wordsworth called, "the life of things." Herein lies the great paradox that Scilipoti presents to his readers--is his protagonist a madman, a genius, or perhaps, a little bit of both? Regardless of what the reader, the author, or the characters may come to believe by the end of the novel though, one thing is for certain - taking the journey with Castile through his experiences, questions, and conversations makes for an incredibly profound voyage through the life of a young man trying to make sense of a world that is infinitely mysterious. Attempting to piece together the various portions of truth he has experienced in his life however, is not the only theme in this novel. After all, Castile is a teenage male. In this novel, Scilipoti also illustrates the increasingly superficial relationships that are an all-to-common result of living the way in which the characters in Beach City live. Most significantly, the object of his protagonist's affection, Mary, is always one step out of his reach, and his more outgoing, intoxicated friends are always one step ahead of him already waiting for Mary. Written in a contemporary dialect, Scilipoti conveys the painful realities of these relationships in such a personable tone that not only does Chris Castile suffer but does also the reader who cannot help but sympathize with the young Romantic. If there is one novel that must be read this year it is Up All Night; for the parents that seek to bridge the misunderstandings of two vastly different generations, for the young adult who can relate to talk of blackouts, ruit games, and hook-ups, for the philosopher who is similarly tormented by questions far out of reach, or for the reader who wants to simply enjoy a humorous and witty story, there is something in this novel for everyone.--Nick, Maryland

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