Friday, October 7, 2011

Bronxwood -- Coe Booth

Cybils season has commenced, as I'm sure you already know.

(If not, where have you been? And more importantly, go nominate your favorites! You only have until October 15th: Better to do it now, while you're thinking of it, instead of planning to do it later only to realize on the 16th that you've missed the deadline.)

This year, I'm one of the YA panelists. I'll be reading a whole lot of books in a short period of time, which means lots and lots of short reviews.

Without further ado: A bit about Bronxwood.

Tyrell's been supporting his mother for the last year, while his father's been in prison. His little brother is in foster care, but Tyrell's been visiting as often as he can, as well as trying to get him back. He's currently living with drug dealers who're taking bigger and bigger risks, as well as pressuring him to start working for them.

And I haven't even mentioned what's going on on the girl front.

Now his father has been released, and seems to expect Tyrell to just back off. To become a kid again. To act as though he hasn't become a man.

Fans of Coe Booth's previous books will probably be horrified to learn that I read Bronxwood without having read Tyrell. (Actually, fans will probably be horrified to learn that I haven't read Tyrell, period. Anyway.)

But, you know what? Bronxwood stands alone. I'm sure that if I'd read Tyrell, I'd have found the first half a bit less slow-paced—but as it was, while I had to play catch-up in terms of characters and situations, I never felt confused about whos or whats or whys—and by the second half, I was fully invested. And by the end: JEEZ. I hope there'll be another book, because I'd really like to know where Tyrell will go next.

Despite the fact that Tyrell is navigating a world mostly unfamiliar to me—the violence he deals with, personally and tangentially; the decisions and choices he and his peers are forced to make; and the whole I've-lived-most-of-my-life-in-rural-Maine thing—his voice not only brings that world to realer-than-real life, but explores themes that are universal: coming of age, facing a parent as an equal, the realization that people have to go their own way. And there are smaller, less life-changing, much less serious universalities. Like the fact that parents—regardless of your relationship with them, past, present, or future—can be hideously embarrassing:

Me, I swear, I'm sitting here hoping some terrorists or somebody will roll up in this diner and shoot all of us so I don't hafta listen to none of this shit no more.

I'll definitely be reading Coe Booth's backlist.

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Book source: Review copy from the publisher.

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Crossposted at Bookshelves of Doom.


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