CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 31. . . .April 11, 2014
Anywhere But Here.
Tanya Lloyd Kyi.
New York, NY: Simon Pulse (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2013.
309 pp., trade pbk., $11.99.
Coming of age-Fiction.
Documentary films-Production and direction-Fiction.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Rachel Steen.
Our house has smelled different this year since mom died. It’s not that I miss her perfume. I don’t think she wore perfume. No, it’s more that the house has taken on a sort of mildewed, dirty laundry smell. If you wore a sweat sock, then dipped the toe in beer and stuffed it under the carpet in the middle of your living room, leaving it there for a few hot, almost-summer days, people wouldn’t necessarily know where to look, but they’d know that something wasn’t right. That’s the kind of smell I mean.
I used to come home and smell dinner, not the frozen pizzas that Dad and I throw in the oven. Not “some damn decent guy food, Cole,” as Dad calls it. I mean real dinner, like roast chicken.
Ever since the death of his mother, Cole has felt stuck. His dad acts like a stranger, and his girlfriend of two years, Lauren, just doesn’t understand him anymore. Now more than ever Cole wants to ditch his small, suffocating town and get into Film School far away from home. Everything seems to be going to plan until Cole discovers the one secret that will change his life, and could keep him there forever.
In her new Young Adult novel, author Tanya Lloyd Kyi perfectly writes the voice of a teenage boy lost in grief and mental anguish. Cole’s actions are drastic and often irrational, but readers will understand the reasons behind them.
Cole is floundering, and while he knows that everything is falling apart, he has no idea how to manage his life with his mother gone. His mother was the foundation of his family, and without her, he and his father are virtual strangers. Desperate to do something to pull himself out of the quicksand that has him trapped, he comes up with a plan to leave his old life behind and start fresh, starting with ditching his girlfriend Lauren.
At the urging of his guidance counsellor, Cole starts filming a documentary about his town. His intent is to show a suffocating, dead-end town that has its residents trapped. As Cole’s documentary progresses, however, readers will see a different picture emerging- one which Cole stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. It’s not the town that’s suffocating- it’s Cole, and the author brings him close to rock bottom before he can see it.
Cole is flawed and often unlikeable, but he is a highly relatable and realistic character. He makes bad decisions, doesn’t always behave well, and as a result, suffers consequences for it. What Kyi does so well, however, is allow her character to grow and learn from his mistakes, and when a life-altering situation arises, he behaves with maturity and sensitivity.
The novel is dark, and sometimes painful to read, but Kyi covers important ground in this honest and highly readable portrayal of a teenaged boy’s coming of age, making it a valuable addition to high school libraries.
Rachel Steen is a “Sales and Selection Strategist" at EduReference Publisher's Direct.
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