Dave Connis’ debut novel, The Temptation of Adam, tackles a rare subject for YA lit: porn addiction. Hailing from a broken home and in denial of his addiction, the titular Adam undertakes a heartbreaking journey while grappling with his humanity. But don’t be fooled by the book’s heavy subject matter; Connis weaves a hopeful tale that will connect with both teen and adult readers.
Intrigued? Check out novel’s description:
Adam Hawthorne is fine.
Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists. But Adam is fine.
When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.
Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost-semi-sort-of girlfriend.
Sky Pony Press will release the novel on November 21st, but you can read an exclusive excerpt ahead of the release below. We’re also thrilled to debut a tie-in song from Connis’ upcoming album, Looking for Eden. In the novel, Adam and his friends travel to Nashville to find a lost album recorded by their mentor, Mr. Cratcher. Connis calls Looking for Eden a prequel to his novel, saying it’s the story of how Mr. Cratcher becomes “the man we meet in the book.”
“I’d always wanted to write music to go with my books.” Connis tells Paste. “When I started writing The Temptation of Adam, I had no idea that music would play such a big role in the book. I originally wrote the album as a simply collection of songs inspired by the book. But after the release of Hamilton, I was floored with the power of long form story arcs through music and rewrote the lyrics of the album to tell the origin story of [Adam’s] mentor.”
“This particular song, ‘> (More Than),’ is the only song written by Adam, not Mr. Cratcher. In the book, Mr. Cratcher asks Adam to write a simple love song to finish out the album. Adam declines, saying, ‘I can only rhyme ‘I love you’ with ‘I do.’ That’s the oldest lyrical trick in the book.’ It isn’t stated in the book that Adam writes this song, but he did and here it is.”
(10/17/10 Update: The entire album is available now on Spotify and iTunes.)
We recommend listening to the song while you read this exclusive excerpt:
WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE
Dad comes to the Civic Center with me. It would’ve been miserable enough without him being here. I told him he didn’t have to come a million times, but his only answer was, “I think I need it just as much as you.” His presence has already changed my plans: we’re early. I didn’t want to be early. This is something connected to Mr. Crotcher, so I should be at least five minutes late.
Not only are we early, but also as soon as we walk through the door, he disappears in search of a bathroom so I’m left alone, with nothing else to do but take in the sights, smells, and sounds (mostly smells) of Washington’s finest: the Bothell Civic Center.
The Bothell Civic Center is also on the cities list of things to be renovated. Construction cones litter the entrance and demolition is going on everywhere the light touches, which is good because the place was undoubtedly built in the seventies, and I don’t think it’s been redecorated since. It would be better if it were called the Creamsicle Empire, or The Palace of Linoleum Glare. As I look around, I feel slapped by the entire spectrum of tan, yellow, and orange. The windows are caked with slick grime left over from the “make love, not war” era, and the fake grout of the linoleum floor is brown instead of white. Fluorescent lights line the ceiling. The Plexiglas surrounding them looks like transparent peanut brittle, all chipped and discolored. Thin sheets of decorative cork cover the walls. Cork. As wallpaper. Not the thing you stick in a wine bottle. There must have been a lack of intelligence among interior designers in the seventies.
I was forced here by the Anti-Adam Order. This is their doing. I sigh and pull out my phone to make a quick porn playlist. I call this “preventative maintenance.” If I don’t do this, I won’t make it through tonight’s meeting without puking in the middle of the Healing Circle.
“Are you looking for the Groupeth De Pain?”
The female voice makes me jump. I let out a silent curse, click my phone off, and turn around.
It’s her. Dez.
Her hair shines like a chocolate sun. For some reason, seeing her this time is even more of a blessing than at the diner. Her face is childlike, but more mature than all of the girls in my class. Her clothes are thoughtful. She’s wearing a gray, hooded pea coat, but it isn’t buttoned. Underneath that, you can see an unbuttoned denim shirt and a gray tank top. A pair of sunglasses rests in her hair. She looks as if someone’s taken all that’s sexy and painted it on a human, one layer at a time. Something about her just tugs at me in a strange way, and I’m not sure what it is.
“Oh, it’s you, Adam, hey,” she says, like it’s not weird to find me at an addiction meeting. “Is Addy coming? She was really cool.”
I’m so taken off-guard, I forget to answer. No, Addy isn’t coming. I chased her away and now she hates me.
“So . . . judging by the look on your face, you’re new and in denial,” she says with a smirk and then points down the hall. “Addiction Fighters is down this way. Just make sure you take care of your eyes.” She slides the glasses onto her nose. “This place is a proxy for the surface of the sun. Come addicted, leave blind. For people who are addicted to porn, like me, it’s the best cure ever.”
I feel my mouth drop. Her honesty, wit, and posture take me completely by surprise, and the only thing I can think to say is: “You’re addicted to porn? But girls aren’t—”
“Into porn?” she interrupts. “Ha. You flatter the male species with your gender specific delusions. For your information, for every guy jerking it on the World Wide Web, there’s roughly three-fourths of a girl going to town on herself. But I should be honest; my addiction is pretty complex. I’m addicted to porn, yeah, but only because I’m addicted to addiction. It’s complicated.”
Maybe this is why girls aren’t into me. I don’t say hello, I just ask them if they are addicted to porn. Not smooth.
“My last name is Coulter, by the way. Yours was Hawthorne, right?”
Desiree “Dez” Coulter. Even her name has an unrivaled sexiness. Just like at the diner, everything about her is an intense flirtation that makes me want to ask her if she wants to get a shake at Pritchett’s instead of asking “Want to sleep with me?” I note the change and mark her as dangerous, but gorgeous, territory to approach with care. Kind of like a volcano.
“Yeah,” I finally say as I attempt to get my proverbial feet back under me. “Hi, Adam,” she says in the most monotone way possible.
“Hi, Dez,” I repeat in the same flat tone.
She purses her lips. “Already used to the dirge-form of greeting we use here?”
“I’m used to dirge tones. I live in a funeral parlor.”
“Uh,” Dez says. “No?”
I nod. “Yeah. No.”
“No on the yeah or yeah on the no? You know what? No. You don’t live in a funeral parlor?” Her tone rises at the end of parlor.
I do the same sort of tone rise with a “Yeah?”
She laughs, and Dad reappears out of a different hallway than he’d wandered down. He sees me talking to Dez and asks, “Who’s this?”
She turns around, but I answer before she does. “This is Dez. We just met. She’s addicted to porn and addiction in general.”
Dad looks at me like I just stuffed a grenade into a baby rabbit’s mouth.
“Aw, you should be proud of your son,” Dez says, shaking my dad’s hand. “He’s blatantly honest and dirge-y already. He’s going to do so well here.” She winks at me, and I’m pretty sure I fall into an attraction coma.
She beckons us to follow her with a confident side nod. “Come on, I’ll show you guys around.” Before I can take a step, Mr. Crotcher walks into the lobby with the guys I saw at Pritchett’s. I recognize one of them. He’s a freshman, huge, white as Downy paper towels, and a starting varsity football player. His name’s Mark, I think.
Mr. Crotcher waves at me, but then he sees my dad and his thick white eyebrows shoot up. “Greg, it’s been so long. Are you joining us?”
Dad smiles and gives Mr. Crotcher a hug—the kind with the intense back patting.
“I think so,” Dad says. “Adam and I both realized we need some changes.”
“Father and son addicts?” Dez asks with this make-your-fingernails-sweat smirk. “Mr. Bunson’s going to eat this up.”
“Dez,” Mr. Crotcher bows his head. “Good to see you. Is it a first or last line day?”
“Last,” she says. “It is definitely a last line day. Hello, Knights of Vice.” She waves at the three boys who came in with Mr. Crotcher, and they each take a few seconds to hug her.
This pisses me off, but I don’t know why, and both the pissing and the not knowing why is weird.
Mr. Crotcher grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me toward the other guys. “Adam, let me introduce you to the men of your Transparency Forum. This is Elliot.”
A plump kid with a pair of hot pink headphones around his neck and swoopy blonde emo hair holds out his hand. “Hey, brother.”
I guess it could be worse. He could be calling me “bro.”
“Hey,” I say.
“This”—Mr. Crotcher points toward a skinny Hispanic kid—“is Trey. Trey, this is Adam.”
“Hey, Adam,” he says.
“And last, but not least, this is Mark. He’s the youngest and most in shape member of the Knights of Vice.”
Mr. Crotcher looks at Dez like they have an inside joke.
“The name is gold,” she says.
Mark doesn’t offer me his hand. He just says hey.
“Hey,” I say, thankful for his minimalistic approach to interaction. This kid’s the best out of the bunch. I can already tell.
“Such dialogue. Much riveting,” Dez says. “Come on, everyone, and Adam’s dad, we’re going to be late.”
I WANT TO UNDERSTAND DEZ COULTER
Dez leads us all into a small conference room. I look for the circle of addicts holding hands, but all I see are people scattered among the four rows of chairs facing the podium. I haven’t even moved out of the doorframe when a homeless guy named Eric introduces himself to me and my dad. He quickly tells us he struggles with alcohol addiction. When he asks me what I’m addicted to, I tell him Cocoa Puffs. He gives me a sympathetic look that makes me think he’s forgotten he’s the one with the addiction.
“You need tonight,” he says. “It will help your denial.”
A man with a thick mustache and Coke-bottle glasses, the man who met with Dez at Pritchett’s last night, steps up to the podium. “Hello, hello, everyone.”
“Hello, hello,” the room responds.
Not even a minute into the meeting, and I’ve almost thrown up and punched a homeless guy. I take a deep breath and think of my playlists.
“If you could gather in your seats, we can get started.”
I make my way to the front to sit next to Dez, but Mr. Crotcher waves me into a row with the Knights of Vice. I get to sit next to Elliot, “Brother of the Universe,” and watch as Homeless Eric scores the seat next to Dez.
“Well,” the man at the podium says, “welcome to Addiction Fighters. I’m Doug Bunson, but feel free to call me Doug. I see some new faces out there so I’ll explain what we do here, and our basic structure.” Doug pushes his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose. “Addiction Fighters is based off the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Can anyone tell me what those steps are?”
Homeless Eric stands up. “One: admit our powerlessness. Two: believe in a greater power. Three: release our lives. Four: inventory our flaws. Five: confess our exact flaws. Six: be ready for God to remove our flaws. Seven: ask God to remove our flaws. Eight: be willing to make amends with those we’ve harmed. Nine: make amends with those we’ve harmed when possible. Ten: continue to inventory flaws and admit wrongs. Eleven: seek God in meditation and ask for power to carry out his will. Twelve: carry this message to others, and practice these principles.”
Homeless Eric sits down like Hermione Granger after answering a question in class. This guy has to be a fraud. He’s got to be here because he’s addicted to the high of being a better addict than everyone else. Maybe that’s his new way of making himself feel better.
“Very good, Eric,” Doug says. “Addiction Fighters is here to help people struggling with addiction by practicing the steps Eric just outlined. We’re an outlet for the soul. A judgment-free zone. As for our structure, each week looks a little different. Tonight, however, we’ll have an extra-long time of introduction and sharing. I’ll go first to give an example of how to share.”
Everything else Doug says is lost on me. I’m sure it’s some emotional story of how he found himself by coming here, and how happy he is to be a part of a group of people who suck at self-control. Instead of listening to him, I focus on Dez and organizing my playlists in my head.
I don’t know how long I’m in my own world, but I snap out of it when Mark stands and walks to the front of the room. He hates this. I can tell by how small his steps toward the podium are. Maybe I could talk to him. Maybe he’d be willing to give me some advice on how to glide through Mr. Crotcher’s program without dying of cliché addiction group-itus.
At the stage, he shares as quick possible. He winces throughout his speech, as though each spoken word is painful.
“I . . .”
“Struggle with . . .”
“Drug abuse. I’m nervous that I’m risking my chances of . . .”
“Being a professional athlete.”
When he finishes, he takes a breath of relief and returns to his seat. Elliot, Trey, and Mr. Crotcher pat him on the back like he just finished a marathon.
Just when I think this meeting couldn’t get any more ridiculous, a woman takes the podium who’s “addicted” to soap operas. She says she uses them to remove herself from her own problems. She knows she needs help because she refuses to talk to people unless they have the name of a character in her favorite show.
Trey’s addicted to sex, and in my opinion, that isn’t a bad problem to have. I make a mental note to ask him how he gets women to sleep with him. Elliot’s a self-harmer, which I saw coming with the hair, the calling everyone brother, and whatnot. Though it isn’t surprising he cuts, it’s strange because guys don’t cut. Although, as soon as I think that, I hear Dez’s voice in my head saying, “You flatter the male species with your gender specific delusions.”
Speaking of Dez, she’s walking up to the podium. She clears her throat and lays a crumpled piece of paper on the podium. “I don’t read whole books. I think you can learn enough by reading the first and last lines. For example, here I am in word form: ‘We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole.’ That’s the last line from Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand.”
I swear her voice sounds like the roar of a waterfall, like nature resides in her lips. She’s smart. Can quote random lines from books. A true sultan of literary legacy.
Who is this girl?
“I’m Dez Coulter, and I’m addicted to addiction. By that I mean I’m addicted to the chemicals that come with addiction. That’s why I cycle through everything you can possibly be addicted to: food, drugs, information, alcohol. Currently, I’m addicted to porn. I know it’s only fueling my problems, but I can’t stop. It’s what I do. I move from thing-to-thing to keep myself whole. My addictions grow to a point where they don’t create the necessary chemical reaction, so I move on to the next. It makes me a perfect storm, because by the time I get back to the addiction I started with, it’s new enough to keep me going. I’m probably going to kill myself if I don’t stop. Not because I want to, but because my existence is based on chemical pleasure. I’m a walking addiction clock, counting down to midnight, and I really want to stop before the arms swing too high. Thanks.”
She steps off the podium and everyone claps for her. I’d probably be clapping if I weren’t too confused to do anything but sit. How could someone so beautiful and perfect be so . . . messed up? More importantly, why am I even here? I’m not like these people. I’m not addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn for that matter. I can stop thinking about it if I wanted to. It’s just a nice release, which you need when you live in a world as shitty as this one. I don’t need porn to survive. As a matter of fact, I’ll prove it. I won’t think about it at all tomorrow. Sure, I want to have sex, but what guy doesn’t?
Dez returns to her seat next to Homeless Eric. He smiles at her, and they hug—for real hug—as though he understands her. I don’t want to believe that Homeless Eric can understand Sexy Dez, but the look she gives him has undeniable soul. Suddenly, I want to be Homeless Eric.
I want to understand Dez Coulter.
The Temptation of Adam
will be available from Sky Pony Press on November 21st.