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Nightmarish memories from high school make up Angel’s weightless and grim first collection.

The characters in these ten stories here aren’t necessarily the kinds you’d want to spend a lot of time with. Take the teenagers, for instance, high on pot in “Donny,” with nothing better to do than torture the narrator’s family dog. They’re on their way to college, maybe, but first they have to initiate the younger sibling of the high school senior of the first story, “Portions,” who returns from getting high by the river with her friends to show her overweight younger sister the health benefits of vomiting. “The History of Vegas” is a depressing tale of hopeless youth given little glimpse of more uplifting lives than those to be spent in battering and prostitution. A 17-year-old boy making a trek to Vegas with his mother and bruised Aunt Dolores to get her a divorce meets a pubescent hooker he befriends and takes back to his motel room. Even their idyllic moment together is tainted and cheapened by the arrival of Dolores’s brutal ex-husband, Uncle Charlie. Elements deliberately undeveloped, like the presence in Charlie’s Crown Vic of his silent co-worker, who makes no addition to the denouement except as a menace, lend the stories unfinished if surprising endings. The young protagonists take comfort where they can, with no help from parents, as in “Supplement,” set during harvest-time on a vegetable farm. The young narrator, Jaycee, becomes entangled in the romance of a neighbor couple while having to quiet the fears of her younger brother, who is nervous about their parents’ feuding. “The Skin from the Muscle” finds a young man home alone (his mother having abandoned him and his father months before) when two women deer-hunters come knocking to use the phone. The startling turn of some of these pieces is mitigated by the overriding bleakness of tone and setting.

Dispirited young people with small dreams and short sight.

Pub Date: July 22nd, 2005
ISBN: 0-8118-4625-3
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2005