Virginia Woolf’s "The Waves" meets "That ’70s Show"

Each day leading up to the April 14 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2012 Novel & Short Story Finalist:

Merit Badges

Kevin Fenton

New Issues/Western Michigan University

Category Sponsor: Anchor Trust


This novel follows the misadventures of four friends from the fictional town of Minnisapa, Minnesota as they navigate the two decades following high school. Chimes, ex-Boy Scout and ace bowler; Barb, the sensitive music lover; Slow, the jock; and Quint, the stoner, have their differences, but share a sense that life after school is not shaping up as they had envisioned.

An excerpt from Merit Badges:

Here is the truth about life in junior high, at least if you’re a guy in Minnisapa, Minnesota in the 1970s: you’re a monkey and your life is a misdemeanor. You spend eighty percent of your time elbowing your friends or knocking their books on the ground or butting them with your shoulder or pretending to crack eggs on their heads.


Kevin Fenton is an advertising writer and creative executive in Saint Paul. This is his first novel. It was Fenton, himself, who described the book as “The Waves meets ‘That ’70s Show’.” For anyone looking for formal experiments in multi-character narrators, Merit Badges provides an example, with lines that linger in your mind long after the book is done.


“If you’re from Minnesota, you’ll definitely see a bit of yourself in Chimes, Quint, and company.”
– Minnesota Book Awards judge

“Impressive vitality, droll wit, and affecting nostalgia. Eminently readable.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

Merit Badges is hilarious, painful, lovely, nostalgic, generous and true. Kevin Fenton creates an unforgettable group of characters, in whose lives and thoughts and actions readers will often recognize themselves. This is a very funny, very moving, and wonderful book.”
– Julie Schumacher

“If Time itself took vacations in other people’s lives – and why wouldn’t it? – the postcards it sent home would look and sound a lot like Kevin Fenton’s debut novel, Merit Badges. These particular postcards arrive decorated with the detailed experiences of a group of ordinary, unforgettable Midwesterners of European descent. Like any postcard you might stumble across, they’re touched with an everyday spookiness, because postcards are really physical pieces of time. This seems simple, but try to write a postcard using Time’s voice and you’ll see how well crafted Fenton’s book really is.” Read more>>
– Emily Carter, author of Glory Goes and Gets Some


Kevin Fenton talks with Patrick McAllaster in Emprise Review about all the steps behind the publication and promotion of Merit Badges, and his thoughts on the future of indie presses.


Award winners will be announced at the 24th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel – Saint Paul Riverfront. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. New this year: a post-awards “Epilogue Celebration.” Tickets are available online or by calling 651-222-3242. Click here for more information.

Have you read Merit Badges? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!


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