Length: 123 pages
Publisher: Colony Collapse Press
Source: From the author
After spending his teens in juvenile detention, Monty is released to find he has nowhere to turn except back to the friends of his youth. But neither BJ nor Erin know how to have him in their lives anymore. As kids, BJ and Monty shared the anguish of being forgotten children, playing basketball and wandering the streets, but BJ has since aged out of her tomboy persona and into a sexually-confused woman in an adult body she doesn’t understand, particularly when Monty is the first guy to view her as a woman. Although Erin Broder never gave up on her friendship with Monty, she doesn’t know where he fits into her upward-bound life, which is filled with professional parents, varsity track, and an Ivy League destiny. To the Broder family, young Monty was a charity case, a kid from the wrong side of Tremont Street, a novelty friend they hoped Erin would outgrow. So what happens when she doesn’t?
Here’s what I thought:
I’ve been lucky enough to read a couple of excellent debut short stories collections recently (see my review of This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila), and Late Lights is another that I really enjoyed. At just a little over a hundred pages, this is a book that one could easily read in one sitting, and the circumstances that it presents are gripping enough to keep you up late reading. From the first story, the reader is drawn into the world of a juvenile detention center, where Monty is hoping to be released in a few weeks. He’s been on his best behavior, earning extra privileges such as the right to stay up until “late lights”.
Once Monty is released, however, things don’t go as smoothly as he may have planned. The reader is shown Monty’s life on the outside: old acquaintances who are not always good influences, friends he isn’t considered to be good enough for anymore, and a world that seems cruelly constructed to favor absent parents and outright, gut-wrenching neglect. What kind of chance does a good kid have in a world like this?
The characters in Late Lights are well-drawn and interesting. I couldn’t help wanting to know more about BJ, in particular, and I would have liked to get the perspective of other kids who had gone through the juvenile justice system, as this is an environment (and a culture) that was completely foreign to me.
Weiss is a good writer, although as a reader I could have used more transition at times. I wasn’t always sure the stories were progressing in a linear fashion, and there’s one big leap that left me confused. The last story also left me wanting more in the way of resolution.
All in all, Late Lights is a book that I really appreciated and would recommend, in hopes that Weiss will be writing a longer work soon.
Thanks so much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book, and thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me a chance to share my review.
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