Book Review: Reaper

 

Reaper

One of the earliest forms of trauma for most young teens has to deal with the subject of coping with death. Reaper, by Kyra Leigh, follows the story of Rosie Wolfe, which starts with her waking up in the strangest looking hospital-like room. It’s a prelude to the discovery that she no longer inhabits the land of the living. Leigh puts a completely different spin on her examination of death by having her hero dealing with it post-mortem. Not only does the trauma of her father’s death from cancer still haunt her, she now faces some very unsavory tasks in order to win her place in paradise in order to reunite with him. There is a very clear Heaven Can Wait aspect to the story as the after-life has a fully functioning set of rules and procedures governed by the Grim Reaper and her administrative staff.

By alternating flashbacks of Rosie’s life with her current quest, we come to understand how tenuous the bonds of life are and how capricious death can be. They seem both cruel and uncalled for. Leigh is a competent writer who quite deftly tugs, and sometimes wrenches, at your heartstrings.

There was a level of disappointment in that Reaper never delivers a solid resolution except the conclusion that death, in and of itself, leaves loved ones floundering in its wake and that there is never a one-size-fits-all way to deal with it.

Book Review: The End Of Our Story

The End of Our Story

 

This exquisite novel, by Meg Haston, needs to be a best seller. The treat is how she probes the fringes of relationships and then dives in deep, exploring and tasting the facets and flavors of complex motivations, false starts and stops, hurt and joy, and finally resolution.

Good writing is supposed to make you feel. For me, The End Of Our Story drilled through forty-five years of ‘trying to forget’ and exposed a raw nerve that throbbed as painfully as when I was seventeen. And, that’s not a bad thing; it’s a tribute to Haston’s talent. The story centers on two teens: Bridge (short for Bridget) and Wils, a pair who have known each other since childhood. Through a time-staggered series of chapters, we experience their path, and witness the significance of people’s actions, how they can alter an otherwise beautiful trajectory. While it sits on the shelves in the teen section of a bookstore, adults should not feel shy about jumping in with both feet if for no other reason than to accept the reminder of the their role in teen life.

If there is any detraction, it might be the repetitive observations that Bridge makes while dealing with the narrative’s issues. Having said that, I still could not put the book down, staying up quite late absorbing the storyline. While it is certainly a stand-alone novel, I am hoping that Haston discovers a compelling way to continue Bridge and Wils’ story.

Review: Wake Up and Smell The Coffee

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee, is a collection of monologues from actor and playwright Eric Bogosian that stream together into a one man show that examines a variety of topics from family to religion to the frustration of societal inequity and the devastation that comes with the realization there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a play that makes you think.

In the interest of transparency, I must admit two things: I have some acting experience, and I know Frank Zagottis, the consummate performer in this adaptation. First, from an acting perspective, to tackle an eighty to ninety minute monologue is insane. In a normal play, an actor is part of an ensemble, sharing dialogue and blocking. In “Wake Up” it’s Frank and only Frank. Second, I know Frank can sing – I’ve seen him, he teaches film, he’s an all-around good guy. What I didn’t know was that he can act. My yardstick for measuring a performance is when an actor is subsumed by a role. When you watch Tom Hanks play Forest Gump, you’re not thinking “oh, that’s Tom Hanks playing Forest Gump”. When you see Stanley Tucci preen as Caesar Flickerman in Hunger Games, you’re witnessing a wholly new entity in the form of a character. Watching “Wake Up and Smell The Coffee”, I lost Frank. I forgot I knew Frank. He disappeared in plain sight.

This one-man performance is a must-see and begs the question, what will he do next and how long will we have to wait for it.

Book Review: To Catch A Killer

To Catch A Killer

Sheryl Scarborough’s novel follows a teen girl, who as a toddler witnessed her mother’s murder, a horror that remains unsolved. Obsessed with that lack of resolution, Erin is drawn into the world of forensics, largely in part because her adoptive mother’s brother works for the FBI and authored a book on the subject. Her life is further complicated by an uncommunicative parental figure, a strong desire to learn the identity of her birth-father, and deal with the murder of her favorite teacher – the catalyst that launches the story. Tossed into the mix are her burgeoning feelings toward a boy who is a prime suspect and her relationship with two zany girlfriends.

The book felt like a contemporary spin on a Nancy Drew plot as Erin moves deeper into the gray areas of the law in her search for clues to both murders and her paternity. In a classic case of misdirection, suspects keep stepping to the forefront as Erin struggles to handle the full range of teen emotions that pull in all directions.

Though she faces danger on a number of occasions, the narrative never generates a truly palpable sense of peril, and the real culprit barely scores a menacing personality. Teen fans of TV shows like CSI will appreciate the forensics primer as Erin works through the evidence she accumulates.

A fun story even if it lacks strong emotional teeth.