Seventeen-year-old Quinn can't feel physical pain. Born with a rare neurological condition, he's faced accidents and emergency room visits. It's a surprise he's still alive—a fact that has left him to his own devices for most of his life. No school, no friends, no rules. At the mercy of his older sister Caitlin, who has spent the past few years caring for their dying father, he spends his days drinking at a nearby bar, testing his limits, and working on a graphic novel about a mysterious vigilante called Shadow Man. Lately, though, even his art has taken a turn for the worse. On the same day his father dies, Quinn accidentally gets hit by a car and Caitlin decides that this is the last straw. Left with the choice to either find a job and grow up, or be committed to a rehabilitation center, Quinn takes a gig at a local butcher shop owned by the father of a sensitive but troubled girl who often changes her appearance with the flick of a wrist. But the closer he gets to finding stability, the further he spins out of control, as the lines between art and reality continue to dissipate. In this debut novel, Jamie Mayer offers an unflinching and poignant look at loss, empathy, and how to grow up without feeling pain.
Adding to Quinn’s problems is the fact that his mother left when he was a child. This leaves Quinn at the mercy of his older sister Caitlin. It is revealed early on the Caitlin is also having a hard time juggling responsibilities in her life. She is a nurse, mother, wife, and caretaker to both Quinn and their terminally ill father.
‘Quinn’s’ character really brings home what struggling with this disease must be like. The character of Caitlin is also wonderfully complete. Like many women she is stretched thin. The character of Caitlin is indicative of what it is like to be a mother and caretaker. I really sympathized with Caitlin even when it was revealed that she had her own demons.
One of the main storylines in the book is that Quinn is a fantastic artist. He creates a comic book character called ‘Demon Boy’. Quinn uses ‘Demon Boy’ to really personify his struggle with his disease.
There was a bit of magical realism that kind of threw me off. It is explained later in the novel but it really confused me and didn’t really add much to the storyline.
I really loved this novel. The prose was well written and the story had a good pace to it. I really love novels that really put you in someone’s skin who is suffering from some type of ailment. I highly recommend ‘Painless’ for a realistic look at Congenital Analgesia.