Nadine Morgan is a journalist. She travels the world looking for dangerous assignments, living in exotic locales and covering wars, genocide, and crim...moreNadine Morgan is a journalist. She travels the world looking for dangerous assignments, living in exotic locales and covering wars, genocide, and crime rings. When an assignment to report on the drug gangs in Mexico goes sideways, Nadine ends up back in her hometown on Cape Cod. Desperate to escape, but still healing from wounds both physical and emotional, she passes up a chance for love with a local doctor to pursue a story in a part of the world she thought she would never see again, South Africa. She goes back to report on a story about a young man from her own small town who was beaten to death while teaching in the black townships. His killers were being brought before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose job it was to determine whether people convicted of political violence during the years leading up to Nelson Mandela's release from prison should continue to serve their sentences. She is forced to confront her own personal demons from her time in Cape Town, and the reasons that she will do anything, including putting herself in harm's way, to avoid making the kind of connections that would tie her to one person or place.
I really enjoyed the other book by Amanda Eyre Ward that I read, Sleep Toward Heaven. Like that book, Forgive Me deals with forgiveness and redemption. The book is told alternately from Nadine's perspective and the diary of a young boy who, like Nadine herself, is desperate to leave his small town life behind for fame and fortune in the wider world. Nadine's story is told through a series of flashbacks to her first time in South Africa, and how it affected her in the present. At times it was really hard to like Nadine. She used her journalistic liberalness as a shield for her own selfishness. After all, how angry can you be when you have offered a person your house on Nantucket Island as a refuge when they leave with no notice to pursue the story of bringing a young man's murderer to justice. Being a journalist allowed Nadine a certain distance from being personally connected to the things that were happening to the people around her, including the people that she considered friends.
Some of the characters were pretty one dimensional, especially Nadine's stepmother, and both of her love interests. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was lazy storytelling or purposeful. After all, Nadine didn't really see other people except as they related to herself. The boy whose journal we are privy to was much more real than any of the other characters in the book, but I spent most of the book wondering what connection his story had to the rest of the narrative, other than his intense desire to get out of his small Cape Cod town. Once I realized who he was, it made a little more sense, but I feel like Ward never really connected the dots between Nadine and the other mothers.
The strange thing is that despite all of the flaws I found in the writing, I still really enjoyed the book. It was an easy read, and the story of what happened to the people during the struggle to end apartheid and the aftermath of Nelson Madela's election as president were engaging enough to keep me reading. The story was billed as one about motherhood, which I didn't really get. To me, it was more about gaining forgiveness, both from the people that you have wronged and yourself. After years of running away, Nadine needed to stay somewhere long enough to see the ramifications of her own choices, and to fulfill commitments she made to people in order to help them find justice in an unjust world.(less)
Gabe loves music, being on the radio, and his best friend, Paige. Gabe also, until recently, was a girl named Elizabeth. At least, Gabe was born biolo...moreGabe loves music, being on the radio, and his best friend, Paige. Gabe also, until recently, was a girl named Elizabeth. At least, Gabe was born biologically female, and his parents raised him in the female gender. As far as Gabe is concerned, he has always been a boy. But his decision to start living his day to day life that way is new, and it is throwing his family for a loop. The only people who seem to truly accept the new/old him is his best friend Paige, and his elderly neighbor John, himself a radio devotee. Gabe gets his own late-night radio show on the local channel, which he calls Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Radio allows him to be fully himself in a way he can't be at school or at home. But things get complicated when one of his fans discovers his secret, and Gabe is forced to confront the very real danger that trans* folks face from people who refuse to accept their identity.
I loved this book, in large part because I know a few young adults who could have been Gabe. As a part of the queer community myself, and someone who works with teenagers on a regular basis, the prejudice, discrimination, and violence that trans* folks deal with is something that I am more familiar with than I would like. I think that it speaks to Cronn-Mill's ability to write a fully-realized character that I was so readily able to identify with Gabe, if not through my own identity, then through the sharing of trans* youth I have worked with over the years.
Not that I have anything against issue driven stories, but ultimately this book is not "just" a book about being trans*. The reader gains some insight into the experience of trans* folks, but Cronn-Mills does an excellent job showing just how universal the issues that Gabe deals with are in adolescence, even if Gabe has a harder row to hoe than most. The teenage years are all about separating from parents, creating identity, and navigating increasingly sophisticated social structures. Many youth struggle to find balance and meaning between the person they have always been, and the person they would like to become. Gabe's transition from being Elizabeth is a more dramatic example of something that all of us go through. Instead of diluting the issues surrounding being trans*, though, this universality may help the reader create connections with characters that are otherwise seemingly very different, which can only help create empathy for people in Gabe's position, and for anyone who is identified as "other"
I think that this book would be a great addition to any classroom library at the secondary level. I also could see it being taught in a human sexuality class, or as part of a course on social justice topics. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children won the Stonewall Award from the American Library Association, given to books for young adults that show excellence in portraying LGBT themes, and award that in this case is well-deserved.(less)
Layton Green is an author that I discovered when he reached out to me about reviewing a new series he was writing, the Dominic Grey series. That serie...moreLayton Green is an author that I discovered when he reached out to me about reviewing a new series he was writing, the Dominic Grey series. That series now has three titles (The Summoner, The Egyptian, and The Diabolist), and I found them to be a delicious combination of well-paced action and interesting information about cults, the occult, and the psychology surrounding them.
Green is back with a new stand alone novel, The Metaxy Project. Like his previous books, Green explores the supernatural from the point of view of a skeptic. In this case, the skeptic is a young man named Derek Miller, a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks who had the good fortune to start a friendship with a rich kid from an influential family. When his friend is killed in a car accident, his father (a wealthy, well-known professor and researcher) takes Derek under his wing and helps him get into and through law school. Derek is just at the beginning of his career, and he has scored a plum job as an associate at a "biglaw" firm. But when the professor is murdered, Derek is drawn into the search for the killer. He discovers a super-secret government project related to the supernatural. The government was experimenting with telekinesis, telepathy, and remote viewing in an effort to weaponize them. Derek puts his life and sanity in danger to bring down the conspiracy and avenge his dead mentor.
This is going to be a strange connection, but Derek reminded me very much of the main character from the USA series Suits. Both are young, down-and-out kids who are given a break by powerful men; both are whip smart and underestimated by those around them; both are prone to pretty women in distress.That's pretty much where the similarities end, but it did make me like Derek's character pretty much from the beginning, since I like that show so well.
As a skeptic myself, one of the things that I like about Green's writing is that he tries to make some connection between seemingly inexplicable phenomenon and actual science. While the story in The Metaxy Project is very definitely in the realm of fantasy, it is not such a stretch, even for a confirmed atheist and realist like myself, to go along with the events of the plot. Green's work is reminiscent of James Rollin's books, only smarter. Whereas I sometimes read Rollin's stories with a good deal of eye-rolling at some of the more fantastical plot points, Green's stories sweep me up completely as a combination of reality and possibility. While I certainly don't believe that things like mediums and ESP are evidence of some larger force at work, who's to say that science won't someday have an explanation for the seemingly supernatural experiences people have reported experiencing over the decades.(less)