In this YA novella and short story, two different young women must figure out their romantic attachments.
In the title novella, 19-year-old Camille “Cami” Alexander is five days away from an important conservatory audition in New York City, where she intends to play her 1713 Stradivarius violin. She’s nervous, and she’s also worried about her boyfriend, Jackson, who’s just been arrested and jailed for stealing computers. Jim, her 27-year-old music teacher, has feelings for her and thinks that she should forget about Jackson. After Jackson gets out on bail, he makes aggressive demands, and Cami breaks up with him. When her Strad goes missing, she suspects her ex but has no alternative but to audition with a borrowed violin. In the short story “Redemption,” Kara, 21, hopes for a second chance with Martin, her 24-year-old former boyfriend. A year ago, he persuaded her to have sex with him even though they both valued virginity highly; when she became pregnant, he left her, but she loves him, nonetheless. They meet up and go for a drive, but Martin is distant and even speaks in tongues when she tries to talk to him. “He’s so holy and beautiful,” Kara thinks, as she prepares to divulge a big secret. Heidelberg (All the Pretty Roses, 2017, etc.) offers two swiftly moving narratives. However, they’re both rather sketchily detailed, with obvious moments of exposition filling in gaps. For instance, Jim explains to Camille how his parents came to be her guardians after her own parents’ deaths—something that she’d surely already know. It would have been helpful to have more explanation at other points, though, such as why Camille ever considered Jackson to be a good boyfriend. Both the novella and story end on notes of easy wish fulfillment that make them less powerful. Heidelberg sometimes offers some engaging reflections, however, as when biracial Cami wonders if Jim considers himself a better prospect for her because he’s white; Jackson is mixed-race, but Cami notes that, in the eyes of the Mississippi community, “she was black, and so was Jackson.”
Two tales with some good moments hampered by awkward, skimpy storytelling.