Category Archives: Coming of Age

The Furies by Corey Croft

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The FuriesThis is a book that has it all; friendship, love, violence, and drugs. The Furies by Corey Croft follows the story of a group of Fury friends. In their final year of high school they are faced with a series of tough decisions. It is about them making it just one more year; it is about figuring out what comes next when worlds of possibilities open up in front of them. Or do they? But above all, it is a story about different ways of coming to terms with oneself.

Set amidst the 90’s drug boom, the narrative faithfully encapsulates the spirit of the time. The plot oozes cultural references specific to that period which takes the reader on a playful journey back in time. The city of Fury is where it all happens. It is a city, not unlike any other, where social and racial divide fills the air. And so does the smell of weed. Corey Croft takes you beyond a picture-perfect layout of middle class life which leads you down some dark alleys and shows you what lurks behind closed doors. The Furies is all about forms of struggle and adaptation to what life throws at you. And the furions sure know how to throw back a punch. But there is also a softer side to their wild nature – a childhood naivete that lingers on in their adolescence.

Idiot by Holly Smith

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

IdiotIdiot by Holly Smith is a story rooted in real events, which has blossomed into a gripping work of fiction. The book touches on several major social issues, like teen pregnancy, attempted mass school shooting, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, these remain ever more current and pressing. But beyond these, rises the life of a girl and her continual struggle with the hardship of life.

We are invited by Holly Smith on a very intimate journey, as we flick through the pages of Eva Langston’s diary. The first time we meet her, she is a troubled teenager trying to find a place for herself in life as she is spun around in the foster care system. Lacking a deeply coveted stability, she finds herself a constant misfit and on the verge of making some life threatening decisions. Her present is shadowed by a childhood marked by an abusive father, made bearable only by the presence of a loving mother and a loyal friend, Kami. But by dwelling into these memories in her journal, at the encouragement of her therapist, she starts working through them and slowly rises above.

Stainer: A Novel of the ‘Me Decade’ by Iolanthe Woulff

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

StainerHow many friends can a freshly 21-year old Jewish man make in a few days or at least in a few months? Benjamin Steiner is just such a person. He has just turned twenty-one, and he is a junior at Columbia. He lives in a Jewish hostel-type building with several others. The building, Rabbi Yitzhak Teller Memorial Residence Hall, is a converted abandoned building that houses Jewish scholars from Columbia. It is known as Beit Yitzhak or “B.” This is the focal point for much of the action here, but don’t believe for a minute that young Ben, embarking on his 21st birthday celebration, is going to be hampered by old traditions. Tonight is the time to get experience that has been denied him so far in life.

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The story begins as Ben journeys to the “B” for the party that comes at the end of finals week. It is the highlight of the “B’s” season and one where Ben hopes to at least meet an attractive girl before the end of this birthday evening.
In a strangely prescient encounter, Ben meets a street evangelist with a sign, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, Galatians 6:7.” This night is going to be one of Ben’s most memorable.

So comes the party. Ben is an active participant and anxious to see what new people might show up. This fateful night, Ben meets two very particular people. Rebecca Glaser is the girl of his dreams that comes to the party and eventually moves into the “B.” P.T. Deighland is the friend of a younger brother of a resident at the “B.” This explains the major thrust of the story.
The tale starts slowly but actually builds through the slowness into an in-depth analysis of a young man messing up his life in celebrating his 21st birthday.

Things keep getting worse and worse. There are times when Ben looks like he is destined to become another statistic but always a redeeming factor brings him back.

Legacy: Book Three of the Fire Chronicles by Susi Wright

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

LegacyThis Young Adult fiction is the 3rd in the Fire Chronicle series. It is very good and thoughtful uplifting even when presenting unsurmountable evil and odds.

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In a fantasy world where races of creatures, usually humanoid, are often fighting each other, order has come to much of civilization. The Alliance was formed in fire with a great battle where Lord Luminor was injured deeply. He leads this group of people beneficently with powers that have been unmatched until now.

There is danger now, a new and fearful evil has begun to invade the Morvians. These people live beyond the Impossible Mountains. Although, this does not affect his domain, Luminor must defend these people from the encroaching menace. He forms his army, the greatest so far, combining many groups into a single fighting force. He heads North leaving hearth and home behind protected by a regent and wise Elders to protect his domain and his family.

This leaves Espira, Essie familiarly, and Ardientor sitting at home and worrying about their father. As hybrids, combining human and Gaian ancestry, they are the first and possibly the only salvation of the domain, but they must overcome sibling rivalry and a confining spell placed by their father. When all seems lost, they find the way, Espira especially, to reconcile the personalities and the powers, first to summon assistance from the Ancient Realm and then to lend its use to the army across the Impossible Mountains.

Anya’s Lyric by Nikhil Kumar

Reviewed by Suzanne Odom

Anya's LyricAnya’s Lyric is a compelling story of a developmentally disabled young girl’s life in India. As you read the book, you find yourself drawn into Anya’s world with its troubles, joys and triumphs. You will also meet other characters whose lives mix with each other’s in the book including Anya’s.

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From the very beginning, the reader is hooked with the opening sentence, “I was born because of one man’s inability to read”. This intriguing line makes one desire to keep on reading. Why was this girl born because of a man’s inability to read? What events will happen in Anya’s life? Once you begin to read, you meet all the characters whose lives cross with Anya’s. From the woman with the mole on her left cheek to the boy with the twisted leg, a slew of mesmerizing characters appear in Anya’s life. All of these characters will have an impact on Anya in both positive and negative ways leading her from a troublesome childhood to the triumphant young woman she becomes.

Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story by Freddie Owens

Then Like the Blind Man:  Orbie's StoryReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Debut author, Freddie Owens, swings for the fences and hits a home run with his excellent coming-of-age story set primarily in Kentucky, Then Like the Blind Man. When Orbie’s father dies, his life changes forever. His mother, Ruby, finds herself attracted to the smooth-talking, poetic atheist Victor Denalsky, who had been Orbie’s father’s foreman at a steel mill in Detroit. After Orbie’s father dies, Victor courts Orbie’s mother, and eventually marries her. Not wanting to nor desiring to take care of a nine-year-old boy with an attitude, like Orbie, who can’t stand his stepfather, anyway, Ruby and Victor decide to drop Orbie off at Ruby’s parents’ house in Kentucky, with the promise that they’ll come back to get him once they’ve settled in Florida, where Victor supposedly has a job lined up. Orbie’s mother and Victor take with them Orbie’s younger sister, Missy.

The novel is told in the first person by Orbie, who, though young, is very insightful for his age. As I read, I was often reminded of another famous novel told from the POV of a child, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird. The themes are different, but Orbie’s and Scout’s perspectives on African Americans in the 1950’s are significant to understanding both books. Orbie has some bad experiences with some of the black people he comes in contact with early on in the novel, so he calls them the “n,” word at various points in the story.

Through the course of Then Like the Blind Man, Orbie eventually realizes that his grandparents are great people who love him. They may not have attained a high level of school education, but they are wise about farm life and human nature.

They don’t like it that their daughter, Ruby, has developed a prejudice for blacks, nor that she’s passed it on to Orbie. That’s one of the many nice touches I liked about Freddie Owen’s debut novel, that in it, it’s not Orbie’s grandparents who live in Kentucky that exhibit a prejudiced point of view, but it’s learned from experiences Orbie and his family have living in Detroit, in the north. Of course, in reality, unfortunately you can find prejudice in every state to this day; but, the author didn’t go the stereotypical route of having his northern characters expressing an enlightened POV, and his southern ones being all racists.

The Grasshopper King by David Stanley

The Grasshopper King Reviewed by Diane Pollock

Brothers without mothers.

So the young protagonist Cosmas self-describes his tribe of orphans at the Catholic Toner Institute. This is a sad tale of a young boy, all but deserted by his family and forced to grow up in an unloving institution. The author’s own experiences growing up in such a “home” lend veracity and grit-you almost feels as if you are there yourself. However, the tale still rings with Cosmas’s strong sense of hope and optimism, the boy shines forth with a deep ability to love.

In part, this is also the tale of another, Cosmas’s father Burt. Burt is an alcoholic, mean when he drinks hard liquor, who drives his wife away with abuse, and thus loses his sons also. But he is not a simple character, easily dismissed. He is an astoundingly talented violinist who once played for a symphony and now, sadly, only plays for free drinks. The son’s love for the lost father is heartbreaking not only to the reader, but also to Burt himself who simply wishes to fade away quietly.