Seven predictable yet tender tales of growing up in America.
Doble's first collection of short stories presents a number of boy-next-door protagonists trying to wrest their way into adulthood in the face of adversity both common and rare. The volume starts off with Lefty, an African-American pitching prodigy from the projects, and concludes with several years in the life of Skipper Bitwell, white, middle-class, fatherless and painfully smart. The themes of alienation and angst breed throughout, and more than one story's plot gets blown just a few pages in by heavy-handed foreshadowing: "Maybe they weren't all serious and levelheaded like Lefty; but they weren't bad kids. At least not then." But along the way, Doble's experiments with narrative voice–ranging from an uneducated bread-truck driver, to epistolary revelation from the battlefield in Vietnam, to "Skipper Bitwell's Journal"–often succeed. The latter tale includes the brief but touching reminiscence of Skipper watching late-night Sherlock Holmes flicks with his father while eating peanut butter and crackers; this homey image typifies the whole of a collection largely comprised of scenes both familiar and local. The work's shortest piece, "The Accordion's Greatest Hits," which charts the transformation of affection from the budding of new love to the onset of ennui, also proves to be an engrossing tale–understated character development leads readers to ponder the very nature of attraction and consider how the same mysteries of character that initially drew one to a beloved may, if left unsolved, drive one away. Other stories, while often describing time spent with various therapists, end up being less psychologically probing.
While the endings to these life lessons aren't always happy or particularly provocative for an adult audience, they do have much to offer a teenaged readership encountering similar tribulations.