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July 22, 2019

Two Coming of Age Stories

by Susan Roberts

There are a lot of books about growing up but it seems that most of them about teenage girls.  These two books are both about teenage boys.  One book takes place in the South in the late 50s and the other takes place current day and is about the drug epidemic in this country.

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The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins

March 2019; Imbrifex Books; 978-1945501272
audio, ebook, print (256 pages); southern fiction
The time is 1959 and the place is rural West Virginia. Stony, the main character is starting his junior year in high school. His main concerns are girls and trying to stay out of trouble and girls. He isn't part of the cool group so when a new student moves to town, Stony and Jack quickly become friends. As friends, they have more than a normal friendship. Jack wants to be a private eye so he and Stony start doing volunteer work at the local sheriff's department and end up trying to help law enforcement solve a robbery case. Their adventures include interactions with the people in the hallows who run the local still and a run-in with the local KKK. As they grow up, their adventures during this year change their perception about current life especially the views on racism.

This is a well-written novel about life in the late 50s when America is starting to change their views on segregation and violence. It's a coming of age time for Stony who has to form his own views about what he sees around him. I enjoyed the main character of Stony who changed significantly in the novel as he began to notice more about life around him.

Buy The Boys Who Woke Up Early at Amazon

Saving Beck by Courtney Cole

March 2019; Gallery Books; 978-1501197024
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); family life
"The heroin pumped through my blood now and it tamed the wild fury that boiled just beneath the surface.  The heroin lulled me into a warm place, a safe place and I wanted to close my eyes but I couldn't because I was driving.  
I liked this feeling.
For the first time in a year, it felt like everything might be ok." (p 110)

Saving Beck is a raw, powerful book about addiction.  It's tough to read in parts because it's written so realistically. 

Beck is a high school senior in what was a perfect life - he was a football star, going steady with a cheerleader and had gotten a football scholarship to Notre Dame.  He got along well with his parents and his younger brother and sister.  It all changed in an instant - coming back from a college tour with his dad, there is a car accident and his dad is killed.  His mom, Natalie goes into such deep grief that she can no longer take care of her kids, buy groceries, pay bills so it all falls on Beck who is trying to deal with the fact that he feels to blame for his dad's death.  First, it's a couple of Xanax and some marijuana to dull his pain.  His relationship with his mom, girlfriend, and siblings begins to deteriorate until one day, in anger,  he leaves the house and meets a friend and does heroin for the first time.  His life begins a downward spiral where the drug is the only thing he cares about.  As the novel begins, his mother finds him passed out on her front porch after he has been missing for two months.

This novel is told in alternating chapters by Natalie and by Beck.  Natalie gives a lot of the back story and how she coped with her husband's death.  She has spent two months trying to find Beck and prays that he will live through this overdose.  Beck's chapters happen when he is in a coma.  He doesn't remember why he is in the hospital but as his memories start to return, a lot of information comes to light about his last two months and his day to day life searching for more drugs.

The book shows what addiction looks like - to the addict and to the family that loves them and wants them to kick their addiction.  At the end of the book, the author says this:  "If this story feels authentic to you, that is because it is.  My son is a recovering addict." (p289)  She also gives some interesting statistics from the National Institute of Drug Addiction:

During 2014,  there were 47,055 overdose deaths in the US.  By 2016 that number had increased to 64,070.  She didn't provide numbers for 2017 and 2018 but with the opioid crisis in the US, we all know that number has increased dramatically.  She ends her notes with numbers to Substance Abuse Hotlines.

This was a book that will stay with me for a long time.  Addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life.

Buy Saving Beck at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter

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