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A World Suddenly Black
At best teenage years are trying,
and at worst they can be devastating and cripple the emerging adult's psyche.
If you ask parents what is the worst fear they have, they would tell you that
one of their children would die. If you ask adults what was the greatest fear
they had as a child, they would tell you that it was that one or both of their
parents would not return home, especially their mother. We can all remember
imagining the horrible accident that took her life as we waited for the phone
call that would confirm our fears that time she was unexpectedly late coming
home from shopping, or work, or some errand that took her out of the house. For
most of us the call never came, and we breathed a sigh of relief when our
mother finally came home. Somehow though, those who do lose their mothers before they are fully adults become like
those wind-up toys that race across the floor until they bump into a wall and then
flip over and spin their wheels, grinding their gears until the spring wears
down.† Steve Nugent is such a boy.
For all intents and purposes, Steve
Nugent is a typical, though intellectually gifted, teenager who is unhappy with
the culture of time and place in which he has been placed by fate. He complains
in his diary that "...with regard to the modern world, the places around
Foote and East Foote [his hometown] are still like forty years behind."
Like many teenagers he is torn between a desire to escape and a desire to be
home. But home becomes a dramatically different landscape when his mother dies
of cancer, and his depressed older brother commits suicide. A new script for
his life needs to be written, but his grief-stricken father is so consumed with
his own pain that he fails to see the boy's downward spiral and Steve is sent
to Burnstone Grove, a boarding facility for emotionally disturbed teens.
Here Steve struggles to find his place in the world
through examining his past in the diary assignment of his therapist, Mrs.
Leene. This first person narration allows the reader to wander around inside
Steve's head, but this stream-of-consciousness confession occasionally leaves
the reader with a confused sense of time sequence. In the main however, it is a
compelling story with a lingering shadow of foreboding of the teenager's
eventual fate. The language, events, and situations may be those encountered by
any age teen, but they may be too graphic and intense for those under 16 years
old. On the other hand, a mature teenager will appreciate Adam Rapp's literary
style and rich figurative descriptions. The author never neglects an
opportunity to wrap the reader in Steve's keen sense of observation and his own
powerful command of imagery such as the old YMCA that "looks like some
failed arsonist's project [and] feels like some strange cross between a mental
institution and a halfway house for war criminals," or the ordinary dad
who lives in Foote whose "eyes were hard and little, like they had been
drilled into his skull with a screw gun. Magazine hair. Clothes the color of
ice cream. Shoes from that men's store in the mall. The perfect white
The story Rapp has woven of Steve
Nugent's voyage of self-discovery is a heart-breaking tale that makes you wonder
how anyone survives adolescence, but it is also a story that is not without
humor and little touches of irony such as Steve's declaration of the "only
kind of book I like--one that's so real you want to find out everything there
is to know about the person who wrote it." This is Steve's story and if it
were set to music, it would painfully tug at your heartstrings.†
© 2005 Lorraine Rice
Rice provides the following information about herself.
- Adjunct Professor of English
and ESL at Suffolk Community College, NY for 16 years.
- Poet and Artist My web page: http://hometown.aol.com/euterpel66/myhomepage/poetry.html
- Widow and mother of three
adult children and one granddaughter.
- BA St. John's University,
- MA SUNY at Stony Brook, NY
- Like to explore: the
Internet, evolutionary-psychology, countries, books, people, outdoors,
flea markets, and old roads.
- Like to create: portraits,
gardens, found-object sculpture, lists, poems, and friendships.
- Like to travel: to most of US
States, Canada, Bermuda, England, Brazil, China, and Mexico.
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