“There is definitely an air of the kind of romantic fiction embodied by Nicholas Sparks or John Green with Vega’s Last Exit to Montauk…”
Last Exit to Montauk is a story of first love, one young readers, as well as lovers of the romance genre, will find quite satisfying. Vega is able to pace his novel quite well, leading readers through the interior life of the unnamed protagonist with ease. Since the perspective is that of the narrator, readers enjoy a very casual, conversational prose tone that occasionally wanders off into reverie but soon returns to the details of the story at hand. However, one can allow a certain air of whimsical remembrance when recounting first love. There is definitely an air of the kind of romantic fiction embodied by Nicholas Sparks or John Green with Vega’s Last Exit to Montauk, from its use of flashback (the vast majority of the novel) to its somewhat twist ending.
What makes the story unique is we are seeing through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old Hispanic boy experiencing his first slice of adulthood. This, combined with the casual yet vivid descriptions of the North Shore of Long Island during the late-1980s, gives readers a heartfelt glimpse into the development of a young man. Vega seems to draw on his own experiences in dealing with the casual racism of the era in creating the antagonist, Kyle Ferguson, the ex-boyfriend who makes no attempt to hide his racial contempt of the narrator who is daring to date outside what Kyle feels is his class and culture. This aspect really does push the novel into territory less explored by many and most romances, but it’s one a keen reader of new adult and young adult fiction will appreciate.
For more cynical readers, there may be too much reminiscence in Vega’s novel and not enough meaningful introspection. However, one doesn’t read new adult or young adult literature for crushing existential realizations, nor does one read romantic comedies for their insularity. Rather, novels like Last Exit to Montauk exist so we can share in a personal and emotive moment, something that allows us to increase our own empathy and depth of understanding. In this way, Vega succeeds in creating a moving story exploring not just puppy love but how friendships develop, are nurtured, and mature. It is rare for an earnest novel like this to actually achieve its goals without relying upon exhausted tropes or standard clichés and thus provoking indifference in readers. In Last Exit to Montauk, Vega avoids those pitfalls, delivering a substantial novel that still feels light while not sacrificing impact.
Reviewed By: Daniel Casey