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"Stew" is a coming of age story centering on two high school freshmen in the early nineties, Jake Greeley and Kevin McCluskey, and the fictional western Chicago suburb in which they live, Forge. Jake is an only child living with his divorced mother, while Kevin is the middle child between two brothers. Kevin's family is representative of Forge itself, very charming and attractive on the surface, but disturbed and troubled inside. It is told by observing Jake and Kevin separately as they develop and as they fatefully come together at the conclusion. Kevin and Jake meet in junior high shortly after the latter and his mother move to Forge. They become fast friends instantly, although they are very different. Kevin is a budding athlete. Jake is more interested in music, primarily punk, and literature. He has hardly any contact with his father who lives out of state, but enjoys a warm relationship with his free spirited mother. This is quite the opposite of Kevin's home life, which is tense and often unfeeling. For different reasons, Jake and Kevin’s lives spiral downward to the point where they plan to exact violent actions against their classmates.

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