On Oct. 27, I went to finally see Rhett & Link live; for the release tour of their book, "The Lost Causes of Bleak Creak." Rhett and Link did a beautiful job intertwining scenes from a back-to-the-home-front documentary with reveal-friendly excerpts from the book that gave just enough without spoiling it for us, with questions from the audience which scattered through after the end of each clip. Each clip showed something of themselves back home that had to do with a certain scene from their book they had been inspired into incorporating from their childhood. From being a long enough follower of the two, who have been best friends with each other since first grade, there were some scenes they talked about during the show that I remembered from having been added to other previous endeavors.
The show started off with the usual casual Rhett & Link joke banter, then a documentary clip of them back home in Buies Creek, North Carolina. The first clip showed them going back to Rhett’s childhood bedroom where they played a game called Testakill, and it sounds as strange and painful as it could be having been made up between any two 14-year-old boys. Basically, take a ball, sit on the floor six feet from each other with legs spread apart, and roll or throw the ball as hard as you can toward the other’s privates.
I was a little disheartened during the scattered Q&A’s to hear that Rex and Leif were basically themselves if they had thrown themselves into a Southern-style version of Stranger Things, but I’ve never had a soft spot for Stranger Things so I’m harder on this than I need to be. Having based one of my first books, a passion project I’m still working on, after a good friend who got lucky enough to hightail it out of our hometown we since fell through with and then using a part of his life as inspiration for one of my first true main characters, I can’t really say much. “Write what you know”: if it works, it works! And the more I read the Lost Causes of Bleak Creak, the more I could feel the essence of Rhett & Link in their main characters, especially in the nuances of both Rex and Leif of little quirks only someone who’s followed Rhett & Link for so long could pick up on immediately. Rex’s incessant need to always lead and “be the one in the driver’s seat” (Lost Causes) and Leif’s habit of following are very much them, without being too on the nose to be another Gary Stu trying to make a book just so they can say they have both a nonfiction and a fictional book on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The book offers a selection of useful concepts as a premise: it’s healthy to question something that your gut tells you is just not what it says it is. It’s healthy to question authority that even in our society we seem to want to simply follow. It’s healthy to ask questions and investigate. It’s healthy to think for yourself, in as much as it is also healthy to stand up for yourself in a world where you’re stifled just for being a teenager simply because, apparently, being a teenager means listening to your parents. That every parent knows best and what they say and tell you to do is final.
Unlike most Young Adult books I’ve read, "The Lost Causes of Bleak Creak" manages to weave through itself life lessons everyone learns either growing up or the hard way, while also succeeding in giving everyone a happy ending with just the right amount of loss. The best part? Even if death is cheated, Rex and Leif have learned valuable lessons about both life and the base premise of their friendship, without taking it for granted the moment things get resolved to fall back into a rhythm of normalcy once things get back to feeling safe in the town.
For as much as I love everything Rhett & Link do from Good Mythical Morning to Ear Biscuits, this took me a while to get through. But once the plot points started to connect and a pace finally settled, I was open to the rest of the book as it was. And as with all really good villains if not antagonists, we even get a bit of Psychology 101 with why Wayne Whitewood is who he has let himself become, just enough to feel sorry for him without ruining anything the rest of the way. His tragedy itself shows just how disillusioned, desperate, and so different a person entirely, we sometimes allow ourselves to risk turning into if only to keep the things we love so much that we lose ourselves just being out of reach of their presence.