Chase, a young artist, finds himself back in his Vegas hometown after a short stint in New York. Teaching art at the local high school, he's trying to make good with his life, but a tragic past keeps him uncomfortably close to his childhood friends. His former love, Michele, has started a teenage prostitution ring out of her hotel suite, and Chase's friend Bailey is the pimp and the backer. Before you know it, Chase's moral ambiguity gets him fired and he's driving 15-year-olds to "out-calls," while half-heartedly plotting his escape from Vegas.
The Delivery Man is balls-out scary. It's full of cringing summations about what it means to grow up without adults, without consequences, and without much hope of anything changing. The atmospherics build: A heat wave causes starving coyotes to rampage the surrounding suburbs. Fifteen-year-olds get bigger and bigger breast implants. Asphalt softens as the summer goes on. It's a world where everyone's too young and too high, and no one expects to live 'til 30.
"It occurs to [Chase] that either one of these girls could be dead tomorrow. They could simply go to yet another party and trust the wrong person and take the wrong drug and pass out in an empty bedroom and never wake up." Chase's ambivalence makes him a complex, not totally likeable character—by doing nothing, he becomes what he observes.
The Delivery Man is extremely readable—fast, smooth, and increasingly tragic. But for all its flash, the novel's characters are fragile, and you're never quite sure about their motivations. Michele remains an interesting mystery, as does Chase. Armed with plenty of resources, these two lost losers can never quite seem to leave Vegas. Which, I'm sure, is the point.