A Masque of Infamy is an autobiographical novel, a coming of age story out of the horrors of child abuse. The dialogue is raw and rough, the characters are very real.
Kelly Dessaint has crafted his story so the reader keenly feels Louis and Joey’s confusion, frustration, fear, and anger as they experience it. I was trying to figure out what the system was doing as the boys were being processed and moved around. And the real story, the one Louis doesn’t allow himself to tell for so long, is slowly revealed through his time in the hospital. It explains his feelings and behavior, and makes his story less about teenage rebellion and more about a desperate search for some, any, semblance of stability.
I was far more disgusted and horrified at the boys’ family situation than they were, and found their somewhat casual feelings toward the adults in their lives horrifying. Whenever a novel contains a child abuse theme, you know it isn’t going to be an easy read. But seeing just how easily children can be manipulated by their abusers was so difficult.
I was surprised and even a little angry that the story ended when it did. I felt invested in these characters, and didn’t want the novel to end before I could find out whether or not they were really okay. Louis develops into a confident, capable young man, but I was still worried about Joey and wanted to know how he fared.
The trepidation I’m left with speaks to how well Dessaint connects readers with his characters’ intensely desperate situation. And despite the fact that there wasn’t a neat and tidy ending, I was left with a good deal of hope.