The death of Kevin, at once charismatic and tortured, is at the epicenter of this collection of short stories by nine well-known authors for teens, exploring the lives of his peers, acquaintances and family as it reveals how each of them is affected.
A withdrawn 18-year-old is clamped firmly under the guiding wing of his uncle, a mortician, in the opening piece that begins an intricate weaving together of a host of seemingly unconnected characters. Many of the older teens in these vignettes are troubled, unable to make sense of their places in families that don’t understand or accept them and searching for belonging instead with their friends. Their experiences are sensitively portrayed, and they struggle with very real issues of ethnic and sexual identity. The overall tone is unrelentingly bleak, perhaps in part because the window offered into each of their lives is so brief. Some barely knew Kevin, and others cared for him deeply, even as they were hurt by his emotional unavailability, the stage for which was set when he was young by his father’s suicide. One story even concerns a character who didn’t know him at all, viewing the tragedy through the technological disconnect distinctive to modern social media.
Complex and emotionally demanding, this collection aims for and will resonate with serious readers of realistic fiction. (Short stories. 14-20)