Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard, reviewed by Freaky

Publisher description:
This complex and haunting exploration of life on the edge and what it takes to triumph over adversity is a story about the indomitable nature of hope.

Two young boys, an old tramp, a beautiful teenage dancer, and the girl's baby-ragtag survivors of a sudden war-form a fragile family, hiding out in the ruins of an amusement park. As they scavenge for food, diapers, and baby formula, they must stay out of sight of vicious gangs and lawless solders. At first they rely on Billy, the only adult in the group. But as civil life deteriorates, Billy starts to fall apart. Skip, who is barely into his teens, must take over and lead them on a search for sanctuary.

Another one whose cover we aren't crazy about - the title either, for that matter. I'm not sure what we WOULD use as the cover art or title, but neither of these seemed to match. Yes, much of the story takes place in an abandoned amusement park, but this cover makes us think horror novel or ghost story, which it is not. The title makes us think romance, which it definitely is not.

It really isn't a lot of things, including, unfortunately, believable. I was interested in the angle at first - most war stories focus on either key players, or people who are clearly on one side or the other. This one features characters who are just living their own lives, not really paying attention to, or even aware of, the events leading up to the fighting, but nontheless finding their lives turned upside down as a result.

Unfortunately, the characters themselves never developed into solid people in my mind. I had to look back to see how old Skip was, because he, like the other characters, alternately behaved and spoke as someone older and then younger than he was supposed to be. Parts of the story seemed forced, others disconnected. A book that had good intentions, but didn't really follow through.

There was one line in particular I really liked, though, and I'll add it here - although, again, it's hard to believe that it would come from a 12-year-old who is not very perceptive in so many other areas (I really got the impression he was mentally challenged at times):

"I know that sentence is too long and has too many joining words in it but sometimes, when I'm angry, words burst out of me like a shout, or, if I'm sad, they spill out of me like tears, and if I'm happy my words are like a song. If that happens it's one of my rules not to change them because they're coming out of my heart and not my head, and that's the way they're meant to be."

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