Tag Archives: Coming of Age

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Did you ever wish upon a star?  Careful what you might wish for…

In the city of Madison, people don’t need a star. They have a special place that gives them one wish on their 18th birthday. Eldon’s birthday wish is coming up in just 25 days but he still isn’t sure what he wants.

Ebba, his little sister, is on life support after an accident. Eldon lost the star spot on the football team. And the girl he loves dumped him for the Calvin, the new star of the team. Now there is nothing left but his wish.

His mother is pressuring him to wish for a way to bring his sister back. His father is consoling but ineffective, locked into a life controlled by his wife’s life-long wish for his love, a love that has made both of them miserable. So what can Eldon wish for that will make the world right again in his eyes? After all, there is always someone who can wish away what his wish has given him?

Those under eighteen dream of their wish, long for the moment they can will get their greatest desire. Many who have made their wish now live with regret or are ruled by their greed for power or money. In high school it has even become part of the curriculum to discuss what to wish for and how to word their wish.

Eldon has the answer, he thinks. Merrill, his best friend, and he join forces with Norrie, a very religious young lady in a town of non-believers, to set out and talk with those who have made their wish. What did they wish for, why and how did it turn out? Along the way Eldon will see a side of himself he never saw, the way others see him, arrogant, self-centered and quarrelsome.

In his search for wisdom, he makes a hash of things. Eldon’s behavior includes fighting, letting others (especially his father) down on the football field, drinking, and even divulging the town’s long-kept secret to outsiders. Intertwined with Eldon’s growing realization of himself and how others view him, are the stories told by those who have already made their wish, why and how it changed their lives.

Before and after they wish, people are driven to protect their secret source. This effectively closes off the town from outsiders and what goes on beyond its limits. Eldon and others, who have yet to wish, are so focused on what will give them their heart’s desire, they forget that life is full of choices and one bad choice/wish shouldn’t control your future.

Merrill and Norrie, with their common sense and vision of a possible future outside Madison, are a good balance for Eldon’s self-centered attitude. So, has Eldon gained any wisdom from his mistakes and from listening to other’s stories? Will he simply make a wish for himself or one that will change Madison forever?

We don’t get the full picture of all the characters in this book but you don’t need it to walk with Eldon, see his mistakes, watch him grow and meet some curious characters along the way. This is a story of how being given something you don’t have to work for rarely makes you happy. It’s also the tale of a town, closed off to the opportunities from the larger world, given the chance to grow up as well.

Match As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti with Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters for an example of what happens when small town secrets are shared with the world. Learning from other’s mistakes in life means listen first and then make your own choices.

Format Available: Book, eBook

Review by Katy, Shawnee Branch

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Death can blind us to a person’s past and push our imagination into an unrealistic “what if” future for the one we lost. When all we have left are our memories, the fear of losing them can send us running back to places where it all began.

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Jake was the dare devil of the family. He was forever pulling crazy stunts, searching out abandoned places to explore, even playing around with drugs. He would accept any dare but the last one cost him his life. Jaycee, his sister, was there. She watches as he falls, sees him lying on the ground with his head at an impossible angle.

It’s been five years since she saw Jake fall to his death. And tonight she will meet up with Mik, her brother’s old friend to explore one of Jake’s favorite abandoned buildings. These days she rarely talks to anyone. She has shut everyone out but Mik and he only shows up once a year on the anniversary of Jake’s death. She has never forgiven Natalie, her best friend, for deserting her after Jake died.

Jaycee is now where Jake was the night he died. She’s graduated from high school. And while she should be focusing on college, she dresses in his clothes, sleeps in his room, all she can think about is Jake. It’s like she’s lost something she can’t find and is constantly looking, searching, hoping to finally understand why all of this has happened. Hell-bent on retracing Jake’s journeys through the abandoned places, to see where he had been, Jaycee will even try out some of his old stunts, trying to unearth him in the only way she can, to walk in his shoes.

But she won’t do it alone. Her friends won’t let her.

Mik, who hasn’t said a word to her since Jake died, is there as always to watch over her when she ventures to these ruins. His secret keeps him silent.

Natalie, the practical one, hides behind the rules, afraid not to be perfect. But she can’t escape the secret she has buried for the last five years, the real reason she and Jaycee are no longer friends – Zack.  Zack, Natalie’s on again off again boyfriend, chases the bottle to keep down his own fears of not being good enough, of an uncertain future, and the possibility of losing Natalie when she leaves for college.

And then there’s Bishop, a friend with the soul of a poet.  Bishop is trying to find his way out the dark place he is in after he crashed and burned when the girl at the center of his universe left him behind.

Told in alternating voices, we walk with these four teens as they try to decide just what is going happen now that school is over. Following in Jake’s footsteps, daring to tread in places long abandoned by man, this dangerous environment brings out the best and worst in each of them. Old feuds will arise, the fear of being left behind, uncertainties that come with change and in the end maybe a little peace.

This coming of age story blends art and words together in glorious black and white, while it sets the scene and brings the story to life.  There are dysfunctional families in several shapes and forms, drinking and some sexual content. But there is real love and friendship here, because in spite of everything these teens care about each other. The descriptions of the abandoned ruins make you feel like you are there. Mik’s point of view is told almost totally in graphic novel form, even some of Bishop’s poetry is displayed in urban graffiti. A tale that blends art and words together in glorious black and white, it sets the scene and brings their story to life.

For me this was a hard look at a scary time, the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, wrapped around a story that is as realistic and heartbreaking as some of things today’s teens will face. This is also an adventure, exploring those places man has left behind in our rush to move forever forward. As these four teens will see, sometimes it takes stepping back into the past before we can move forward. Besides some of these places are wonderfully creepy, as are this parts of this tale.

Formats Available:  Book 

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

“My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes.” – Starla

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Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is one of those books that changes your heart and gives you a view of America’s south in 1963 through the eyes of a child. The story begins with a child and follows her throughout a life altering journey. Starla is a feisty nine-year old, who states her mind and continually challenges authority. She is being raised by her grandmother and father because her mother has gone to Nashville to become a famous singer. Her grandmother rules with a strict hand and Starla fights back against her rule every chance she is given. Starla quickly decides to flee town to escape her grandmother and to reunite with her mother because she believes that her mother is the only one who loves her. We eventually find out her mother’s true character later on in the story.

Starla is found on the roadside by a black woman that is currently caring for a white baby that she has taken from a church’s front step. Eula and Starla continue on a journey towards Nashville that is briefly halted by Eula’s abusive husband, however they eventually make it to Nashville to find Starla’s mother. This adventure brings Starla face to face with race relations, abuse, and murder.

This book is unique because writers normally do not decide to depict the tension in the American South at that time through the eyes of a child. The only faults that can be found in this book are some of the side stories that the writer introduces. For example, the story of the white baby that Eula has stolen seems to just fizzle out at the end. Overall this book is well written and a page turner to the end. Some readers may even identify with Starla because they also grew up at this time in the South.  For those of us that weren’t alive during those times, this book gives an authentic view of the race relations of the South at that time.

Formats available: Book, Large Print

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

 

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

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The tragic loss of a small child drives Annie into herself. Her husband can do nothing to console her, but readily points the finger at their surviving son, Kevin, who is smothered by guilt, but unlike his mother is aware of the need to move on. The decision is made for mother and son to leave Indiana for Annie’s family homestead in the Appalachian mountains, where readers find out that this was not the first premature or violent death visited upon the Peebles bloodline; Annie’s mother died as a complication of her birth, while her grandfather was targeted as an early activist for miner’s rights. When Annie returns to her father’s home, he too has known grief and is ready to give his daughter and grandson the space to heal.

Pops Peebles has commanded a great deal of respect amongst the inhabitants of fictional Medgar, Kentucky. He entertains his closest friends most every night with front porch talk and colorful stories, always accompanied by glasses of sour mash in engraved crystal. Like his father, who stood up for safe working conditions for his fellow miners, Pops is also concerned with fighting for what he thinks is best for his community that has slowly degraded due to surface mining practices.

Medgar was once thriving and proud, but in 1985, its beauty has been scarred, its waters polluted, and its economy has slowly trickled to almost nothing. Decline and loss are a painful terrain from which The Secret Wisdom of the Earth‘s youngest characters develop; some who triumph and others only add to the devastation. Kevin, who for most of the book holds back on revealing the circumstances of his brother’s death, finds himself with open-ended days to wander the forest around his grandfather’s home. There he meets Buzzy, a local boy near his own age, and they spend their days exploring the wilderness, navigating bullies, and admiring the opposite sex. The two become inseparable until another tragedy strikes, and the boys are forced to weigh allegiances over conscience.

Whether you’re a fan of regional stories, have an interest in mountaintop removal, or just appreciate a great coming-of-age tale stocked with colorful characters, I encourage you give this first literary effort by Christopher Scotton a top place on your reading list.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

 Reviewed by Natalie, Crescent Hill