This is no frat party

Light shines on the darker side of college fraternities,” Jock Young’s first novel, “Epsilon Zeta,” proclaims in bold print on its cover. Young attempts casting his verbal light by allowing his readers to spend a few semesters in a fraternity at his fictional Northwestern Florida University, or NFU. Within the first few chapters, the reader is introduced to an overwhelming cast of characters. In trying to speak for too many people, Young never allows for any of his characters to fully develop, leaving the reader to follow the exploits of an utterly flat cast of characters. His portraits of characters leave much to be desired. Take for example this excerpt: “Zack walked over to the front porch railing where Renee was sitting with April Hughes, Cal’s blond and bosomy girlfriend.” His book is filled with trite and superficial descriptions like this, leaving out any portrayal of substance. While wasting too many pages with dialogue that often sounds tedious and forced, Young avoids explaining important aspects of the Epsilon Zeta fraternity and does not define terms well enough for readers who are not involved in fraternity life to understand many of the procedures of the frat. It seems there are events that are thrown in to shock the reader, but they often seem wholly unrelated to the plot, with most of the troubles in the Epsilon Zeta house stemming more from financial problems and petty quarrels between the brothers than anything else. While these elements form the backbone of a mildly entertaining story, there seems to be a level of excitement missing that one might expect from a book that claims to be exposing the lesser known, shadier sides of fraternity life. One upside to Young’s book is that he remains objective throughout his narrative, taking care not to influence his readers by taking sides. Take a trip to Mr. Young’s website though, and, under the “Epsilon Zeta Research” link for the novel is a palette of photographs from his frat days complete with the trite but necessary beer helmet and a quote from the author more or less blaming (or endearing) his fraternity for crushing his dream of one day heading NASA. But, whatever his goal may be-whether to purely entertain or to expose to his readers something that he deems of important, namely what takes place inside fraternities-his task is ultimately lost in the swampy pages of this story that is a chore to trudge through. Writing a novel is no easy task, and it seems that Young’s heart is in the right place, but until Young learns to develop his characters more fully, his future works will lack any discernable talent as a novelist.