Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Books I've Read: Another Life


This book looked interesting when I saw it at the library, so I picked it up.  

It's set over one summer in a small upstate-New York town and follows a loosely linked group of protagonists through this period.

There's Laura, a fifteen-year-old girl trying to figure out who she is.  Her best friend, Bethany, is suddenly infatuated with a girl who hangs out with a different crowd and Laura feels left out.  More and more she turns to the guy she's been talking to on a dating site online after setting up a fake profile as a joke.  As things between her and Bethany become more and more strained, this relationship becomes the most important thing in Laura's life, never mind the person Paul thinks he's talking to is not fifteen-year-old Laura.

April is Laura's mother, a divorced math teacher who spends her summer running the church Bible camp.  More and more dissatisfied with her life and her choices, she falls into a reckless affair with a much younger man and finds herself enjoying herself for the first time in years.

Paul used to be the home-town hero.  A local rock star, he left after high school to hit the big time in New York.  Now he's back, having failed to make his dream come true.  He spends his days in his childhood bedroom at his mother's house, and his nights driving aimlessly around town.  When his mother gets him a job as the sound operator at church, his path crosses April's and for the first time he sees her as something other than his high school math teacher.

Finally there's Ben, a thirteen-year-old kid at the church Bible camp.  He's hopelessly in love with Bethany, but will never tell her.  He's struggling to figure out how to relate to his new foster brother, a sullen Black kid called De Shawn.  And why does De Shawn get the attention from Bethany he so desperately wants?

I really enjoyed this book at first.  The characters were interesting with their different wants and desires and the small town setting gave a real sense of claustrophobia.  It was interesting to get to know each individual and figure out how they fitted into the world of the story, how the connections would form between them all.

Unfortunately, it kind of petered out at the end and only two of the characters really got any resolution.  And they weren't the characters I was the most interested in.  I guess this leaves things open for a sequel, but I would have liked to have seen all four stories come to some kind of conclusion.  I left the book feeling somewhat gyped by not getting this.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Vacation Bible School got a little out of hand this year.

Laura: a teenage girl struggling to fit into her small, sleepy town in upstate New York, slowly drifting away from reality and into the secret life she inhabits online. Paul: a twentysomething wannabe rock star, back home from New York City, broke and jobless, living with his mother. April: a math teacher with two kids, running her church’s Vacation Bible School, discontent with another summer planning crafts and regurgitating verses. Ben: a boy stuck at VBS, still adjusting to the presence of his foster brother, DeShawn, a quiet, brooding kid from Brooklyn.

Over the course of one summer, these characters’ paths will collide in surprising, often hilarious ways. Encompassing questions of identity, religion, race, and family, Another Life is an absorbing and thought-provoking debut about the line we all walk between desire and responsibility.

1 comment:

  1. Aw, I hate it when books peter out. I'm not saying everything has to be tied up, but it's frustrating when there's no resolution.