Becky Ginther's Reviews > America

America by E.R. Frank
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May 13, 2011

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bookshelves: young-adult, realistic-fiction
Read in May, 2011

** spoiler alert ** America starts off as a book about a 15 year old boy who is in some sort of mental home. He is what you might typically picture when you picture the "bad boy" that has depression and tried to kill himself. He's stubborn, he curses all the time, and he refuses to talk to his therapist. He even occasionally throws chairs or other things.

However, the novel alternates between the present time, and America in the mental hospital, and the past. We learn that America was a crack baby, and grew up with a foster parent until he was in Kindergarten. He ten goes to visit his mother, who promptly abandons him to his older brothers (around ages 7 and 9). The three boys live on their own for 2 years. We continue to learn about America's past, and all of the horrible things he endured. In many ways we become sympathetic.

Although I kept wanting to read and find out more, I was also very disturbed while I was reading. I feel like you expect the story to go one way: you think that there’s the bad side, which is his mother, the drug addict, and two older brothers who have been living on their own for years from the age of 7, and then there’s the good side, which is sweet Mrs. Harper who takes good care of him. However, the “good side” isn’t all that good. Browning, Mrs. Harper’s half brother, really turns out to be a terrible person. He not only allows this 7 year old to drink alcohol, he also makes him read dirty magazines. What’s worse is that Browning also starts sexually abusing him. Turns out that living at Mrs. Harper’s isn’t so much better than living with his mother.

It really got me thinking about how important it is to raise children the right way. Of course you can’t always be perfect, but having a positive influence is so essential. The sad thing is, there are children who don’t have this positive influence. You can really see how America is learning the wrong things about life. Sometimes it seemed like he didn’t do what was right because he didn’t know any better, or people told him that it was wrong. For instance, when Browning told him not to bother Mrs. Harper, he was too young to realize that he really should go and talk to her. In many ways, I found myself blaming Mrs. Harper. Maybe that’s horrible to say, but if she was that old, and in that poor medical condition, she probably shouldn’t have been adopting a young boy. Aside from that, she should never have entrusted him to Browning. She may not have known that he was sexually abusive, but she certainly did know that he was an alcoholic and chain smoker. I’m not sure why she thought it was okay to leave America in his hands, instead of trying to find someone that could truly take care of him.

This book allowed me to see things from a point of view I might not normally see from. While it was disturbing, it was also interesting and at least a little bit hopeful at the end.
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message 1: by Debbie (new)

Debbie I wonder why these young adult books deal with such disturbing topics all the time. I know some young adults have to deal with really touch issues but many of them have a relatively happy life.

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