This was a surprisingly good book–and much more emotionally gripping than I thought it would be. Asante’s descriptions of his life as a young teenage boy are honest, powerful, and heartfelt. I especially appreciated how he wove his mother’s diary entries into his own story; her perspective added depth to Asante’s experiences, and I actually felt more connected to Asante through her words.
Chapter 13, “Midnight Train,” where Buck describes (SPOILER ALERT) the day his father left him and his mother, was short but still very emotional. Perhaps because I have experienced something similar–and perhaps because I have young children of my own now–I felt so sad for young Buck as he suffered the intense sadness and disappointment of having his father walk out on him. And his mother’s reaction to being left was so acute, so obviously full of pain and utter hopelessness, it was heartbreaking to read. This chapter and the chapter describing the death of one of his good friends were probably two of Asante’s most powerful moments as a writer.
And there can be no doubt that Asante is a capable writer. His prose is very poetic, and it flows effortlessly. True, there is a distinct melancholy to his writing, so much so that even happy–or at least hopeful–moments feel sorrowful. But I suppose that is to be expected; the losses we’ve experienced are always with us.
My only criticism is that I found the frequent use of music lyric excerpts to be a bit irksome. Sometimes they added something extra to the story, but most of the time I felt that they interrupted the flow of the book. Thankfully, Asante used them less and less as the book went on, relying on his own words more often–which, I suppose, may be the point.
Overall, this was a quick but engaging read, and I would be curious to check out any other books Asante decides to write in the future.