Sunday, May 26, 2013

THE SWEET IN-BETWEEN – Sheri Reynolds

Things seem to be piling up and I can't get my wits about me but I still need some downtime reading so while looking through the books at Goodwill I spied a great clean hard copy of this little novel by Sheri Reynolds. In 1997 my friends and I had passed around copies of her Rapture of Canaan and we all really liked it. So, remembering that off I went to pay my $2.50 for my weekend escape read. Well. It wasn't a weekend read, it was only a few hours and I didn't want to put it down but it wasn't my normal pick for “escape” reading. Where to start?

I like Reynolds style of easy dialog, fast moving plot lines, and great complex characters. Here we have a book about a sexually confused teen, Kendra/Kenny trying to decide who to be in a turbulent family of misfits in which she doesn't even belong. “Aunt” Glo is actually her father's girlfriend and dad is in prison for drug trafficking. Kenny adores Glo's small granddaughter Daphne and in actuality is the responsible caregiver to the developmentally challenged little girl. In the home also lives Glo's sons Quincy and Tim-Tim. There is never enough money or good food, Tim-tim is a thief and Glo remains stoned much of the time.

Interspersed with chapters of Kenny maneuvering the halls of high school trying to find a place to just “be,” and to be real, the reader (or at least I did) remains on edge while she tries to keep her family together and functioning. They live in a duplex and on the other side is a lecherous drunk who shoots and kills a teenage girl who mistakenly enters his house thinking it is one she rented. So throw in all the trauma of that mess and what a great tale Reynolds tells. Kenny's coming of age tale is so poignant and also shocking at times. Reynolds did a good job making the reader see how the minds work of those who traverse a world that we, or at least I, have no experience with. It is hard to read about a young girl being sexually assaulted and then having her take it in stride and not think it is the end of her world. It is hard for readers like me to read about people living in subcultures where that is not uncommon and not perceived as being that bad.

Kenny is the hero of the book as well as the main character. You feel when the story is over that she will be fine and she will be well. She does find good things and goodness, her best friend, her friend's dad, some good teachers, photography, and her love for Daphne. It is heart-wrenching getting there but worth the read. The only thing is... this book haunted me. As a high school librarian I met many students over the years who were prickly, seemed to be negative, guarded, and operated on the edge of being disrespectful. I, like many, would lose patience with them and perhaps just didn't understand that they needed to be “seen” in a different way.

Here is what I really didn't like – the cover of my hard copy book where Kenny is shown in a dress which she never wore, sitting on the porch of the duplex with the wrong house number on the door! Grrrr. I hate that kind of messed up detail.

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