CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007
Sixteen-year-old Kenny Harris gets involved with 25-year-old Mack and Mack’s friend Spenser, spiraling deeper and deeper into the secretive underworld of drugs, stolen goods and violence. At the same time, he falls in love with his older brother Joe's girlfriend, Natalie (and she with him). Tommy Hunter is the only person who can tie him and Mack to an accidental (or was it on purpose?) murder. On the evening of December 17, Mack demands that Kenny bring Tommy to him by 6:00 a.m., and Kenny's suspicions that Mack will try to murder Tommy are correct.
The Story of My Life, set in London's grim east end, on a cold, dark, snowy night, builds suspense by alternating the present nasty night with the history of Kenny's last few weeks. The setting is both gloomy darkness punctuated by the warm lights of pubs where Kenny gets information on Tommy's whereabouts, and completely present-day as the characters text and use cell phones to stay in touch.
Kenny and Natalie and Mack's parents are presented as fussy and concerned, but ineffectual, as the young people slip in and out of their homes for money, food, sex and sleep. Kenny rejects school attendance and resents Joe's school and university success. A typical confused, goal-less, horny teenage boy, Kenny knows what's right and wrong, but finds himself drawn to Mack's power even as he recognizes Mack and Spenser's immaturity and danger. The reader might wonder if, indeed, Kenny has learned anything, and might reject the novel as sensational in nature only, except that in the end Kenny does mail his letter to the police telling his version of the death for which Mack is responsible. Both Natalie and Joe are fully realized characters, too. The way Natalie falls for Joe and also her sudden love at first sight relationship with Kenny are completely realistic. Joe represents the caring, if betrayed, older brother. The sleazy, vicious Mack and the low-life Spenser are only too well drawn, nauseating, in fact, in their attraction to violence.
Canadian students will struggle a little with the British vocabulary (mobile for cell phone, bloke and mate for friend, uni for university, carriageway for road), but most will persist to see if Kenny lives through the night. The print is large, and the book is small. Consequently, reluctant readers may pick it up after they see the outline of a dead body on the cover.
Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.