“An angel has stepped into your life, perchance to change it forever. And you want to contemplate the ifs? Go now, James; and tomorrow when we meet again, we’ll talk more about this angel, who by then will have a name.”
This is a short story collection that concentrates on the trials and tribulations that seem to come around as children enter their teenage years. Whether it is searching for a place to belong, paying heed to the advice of your elders, proving yourself against a seemingly insurmountable force, letting your loved ones into your life, or feeling disenfranchised; this book covers the majority of these issues. It is quite common for a young adult to feel raw emotion associated with what more experienced people would deem as necessary tools for learning. The key is to make sure you get out alive and hopefully in one piece, but more likely than not, a little different than the person you were before hand. The author does a great job of isolating events to highlight these feelings and I am sure most adults could pen their own tales from their own experiences while having the same message. If I had time and a little talent, I also have a good story to tell you that would focus on the underlying theme in “14th Street”, my version would be called “La Couche” and it most certainly is a doozy.
“Ellie’s ultimate goal this summer was to embark on the first steps in taking ownership of her life. She knew and took comfort in the long road ahead, relishing her freedom of choice but cognizant that time only flowed one way. Forward.”
How Long can a White Girl Last on Nebraska Avenue?- A story about a girl named Ellie who is spending her summer with her slacker cousin Klause, away from her parents watchful eye and conservative values. Hard to relate to the slow pace, normal atmosphere back home she finds that the city of Tampa and its residents are more her speed. When she steps off the plane for the first time she is disappointed in Tampa’s first impression, but on her journey to her cousin’s house she ends up learning a lesson in love and being rewarded with much more. Closure of Choice- Story of being trapped by other people’s expectations or predetermined plan. Struggling to take control of your own life’s path and having your own expectations. Peer pressure, longing for the thrill, short-sighted decisions, avoiding the tedium, failed icons, and ignored heroes. At times life won’t allow second chances so make the first one count. The Closet – Story exhibiting how as tragedies unfold, strangers can be brought together. The response to action that makes your very own survival fall secondarily to that of a person directly in harms way. Humanity, and the spirit from within brings a willingness to endure and overcome all obstacles thrown its way. 14th Street- The future of Hillsborough High’s Varsity Football team is so bright, the audience will have to wear sunglasses while under the Friday night lights. It seems natural, but every few years there is always one star that shines the brightest, for Darren he just happens to also be the loudest and most brash. To Jada on Her 16th Birthday- A mother writes her child a letter with hopes of breaking the cycle of abuse, terrible decision-making, under-achievement, pain and abandonment. It is all about stemming the tide and swimming with the current. The Poet’s Laureate- James Wall and Satchel Lewis form a friendship over the course of a few days that will immortalize them both. It is a lesson in what can happen when community service does just as much or more for the server than it does for the served.
“I knew before Rone even kicked down the bedroom door. We’d jacked the wrong place. Pushed up on the wrong person. Got seduced by the wrong kind of greed.”
My favorite stories in the collection were How Long can a White Girl Last on Nebraska Avenue? and The Poet’s Laureate. These two stories had a lot of heart and left you feeling all warm and gooey inside. 14th Street had the least impact on me. It is probably because it is the story that resembled my own experiences and didn’t offer a surprise. Football happens to be one of my favorite sports so the hidden gamesmanship was not much of surprise. The Closet was very interesting and provides a ray of hope for humanity in dire situations. To Jada on Her 16th Birthday is an interesting way to communicate mistakes while the wounds are fresh and regret from wrong decisions is so fresh in your mind. Closure of Choice was a reverse chronology of events from the seedy underbelly of the streets back to the halls of the high school and the kitchen table with poppa. The author does a great job of altering his dialogue to best represent the characters voice and maintain a flow within the pages. I recommend this book specifically to younger adults, but like most short story collections, there is always something for everyone and maybe even more than you may have expected. You can have the orange cream:)
“Darkness is beholden to one’s point of view. Let her in, and may your world be bright with inspiration.”