An idealistic girl grows up motherless and gets tested by temptation and danger in Meyers’ (The Slow Creek and Other Stories, 2011) YA novel.
In East Baltimore, Veronica Adamo is raised by her doting single father, Peter, a jazz musician. She plays and crab-fishes with neighborhood boys, but she adores and protects Dalton “Dolly” Braskey, who’s mentally challenged. They soon become inseparable, blissfully relishing “the now of childhood, without any tomorrow and without any end.” Dolly goes on to exhibit flourishes of artistic genius and Veronica blossoms into a beautiful, plucky young woman. She eventually becomes attracted to Karl Jasinski, a swarthy, motorcycle-riding bad-boy who performs with a band at a nearby pub. She finds herself helplessly drawn into his milieu of sketchy clubs, drug abuse, and sex. As she temporarily sacrifices her special friendship with Dolly, her relationship with Karl becomes rocky; also, a stern chat with her disapproving father reveals the truth about her mother’s death. Readers will cringe as Veronica descends into Karl’s grim world, but they’ll cheer her on when, in her darkest moment, she rises above the fray. Then a senseless tragedy and other unexpected developments further complicate matters. Maryland-based author Meyers shows a fine sense of timing and a talent for engaging characterization. He smartly keeps the narrative relatively brief and cleverly avoids overamplifying the melodrama between Veronica and Karl. The prose is swift and colorfully descriptive, but some of the phrasing can be schmaltzy at times: Veronica’s father, for example, is described as “a quiet man, and yet, somehow, he gave the impression of being self-aware deep inside himself,” and a sex scene has a male character “fastening himself to her in an easy, easy rhythm, until that became the awesome power of his beat, beat, beat.”
An often effective, down-home drama with memorable characters and a life lesson or two.