O’Dell., Tawny Back Roads. Berkley, 2004 (reprint). ISBN 978-0451212450 343 pp. $14.99
20-year-old Harley, just arrested, bares the skeletons in his family’s closet in this gritty tell-all. On the cusp of manhood and forced to grow up too soon, Harley juggles two jobs, a shrink, a married woman, and his three younger sisters. Eventually, a ball has to drop. O’Dell has written a tense and exciting novel filled with gruesome and exquisite sensory details of sex, violence, art, lust and crime. Not for the faint of heart! The most remarkable thing about the novel is Harley’s voice–honest, real, and true. Readers will empathize with this young man who is bitter, loving, wise, resigned and innocent.
Maynard, Joyce. The Usual Rules. St. Martin’s Press, 2003. 309 pp. 0312242611
This post-September 11 tale follows the five stages of grief of thirteen-year-old Wendy. When the planes hit that fateful sunny morning, Wendy’s larger than life dramatically creative mom, an executive secretary in one of the twin towers, becomes one of the many missing. In addition to the usual grief, suffers massive guilt over the last fight with her mother not only did she not kiss her goodbye that morning, but Wendy wasn’t always the nicest kid, and yet, in spite of everything she did, her mom continued to love her unconditionally.
Wendy doesn’t turn to drugs or boys or self-mutilation; instead she leaves New York, her musician stepfather and precocious half-brother Louie and escapes to California to live with her birth father for awhile. But the grief and the memories don’t dissipate. Instead she matures, and begins to cope and forges new bonds not only with her father, but with his girlfriend, and a skateboarding boy with a tough homelife.
This slow-paced novel moves back and forth in time as Wendy remembers her life with her mother, the subtraction of her father and addition of Josh, and imagines when and where she will see her next.