Review: Painless by Jamie Mayer

In competing narrative voices (mostly first with a dash of third), author Mayer ably explores the turbulent headspace of Quinn, a teenager with a condition known as congenital analgesia—he can’t feel pain.

A high percentage of folks with Quinn’s condition don’t make it to adulthood, and Quinn seems set on joining that grim statistic.

As he processes—or tries to process—his father’s death, Quinn self-medicates through his art; and he’s good. The guy at his local comic shop begs him to complete his masterwork, a parallel tale about a dark superhero who fights crime alongside a canine familiar. The story later ushers in more residents of Quinn’s little island of misfit toys: two women who seem to speak to different sides of his personality. (Such triangles always make me flash on Dorothy Vallens and Sandy Williams, but that’s probably my cognitive bias talking—though this book does have some Lynchian qualities.)

In any event, this touching book reads like a cross between Good Will Hunting and Geek Love set on the boundary between our universe and whatever universe houses A-Ha’s video for “Take on Me.” It’s also beautifully written, belly-laugh funny, and downright harrowing at times. Highly recommended.