While the ending feels rushed, this lively account of youth culture adroitly evokes its time.



A gay teen from a small Oregon town falls in love with dance and a self-destructive new-wave underground in this debut coming-of-age memoir set in the radical 1980s Portland arts scene.

Knapp was in seventh grade when his queerness and nonconformity transformed him from an “outgoing, popular, naive little limpet” into a constant target of bullies and jocks. Embracing his status, he found a home among “the thespians, the smokers, punks, mods, the Wave-os” and in the local ballet studio, where he could express his emerging self. His parents, a kindergarten teacher and a college music professor in the town of Corvallis, Oregon, were well-meaning people who had little idea of how to deal with their maverick son except to be carefully willing to let him distance himself from them. Recognizing this offer of freedom as a form of rejection, the author explored his emerging sexuality and his art, concealing his self-consciousness with “eyeliner and a lotta what-have-yous.” He eventually abandoned the security of his family home and ran to Portland, where he became part of the desperate and thrilling community of the “lost, those who’d evicted hope.” High on a cocktail of artistic camaraderie, sexual discovery, the “tangible magic” of dance, and the dangers of the emerging AIDS epidemic and homophobic violence, he turned experience into movement. Knapp’s prose is energetic, defiant, and roguishly cadenced, as he evokes the youthful state of being “teenager know-it-all strong,” driven by cacoethes, the urge toward the inadvisable. He is especially successful in conveying his transcendent love of the freedom of dance and his rebellion against the snooty strictures of conventional ballet’s efforts to turn him into a “Ken doll forklift.” The short, cacophonous narrative is satisfyingly taut up to the final pages, where it ends with a jarring abruptness just as it takes a dark turn into sexual violence.

While the ending feels rushed, this lively account of youth culture adroitly evokes its time.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68740-400-8

Page Count: 69

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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