a death of one’s own

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream

Clementine Pritchard has it all figured out, down to the last detail. She’s over the deadening meds and the personal dramas, it’s time to depart. And that is exactly what Clementine sets out to do, choosing the means to end her life with as little mess as possible and leaving all her baggage in order. Counting down to the day when she’ll settle in for good, she starts on a 30 day journey to pick her poison, make her mark final mark on art, and resolve all the little issues left over from a childhood gone wrong.

Suicide is a delicate subject, so this review starts with a caveat–whatever your views on the matter, if you don’t want to read about suicide, don’t read this one. That said, Ream manages to take a generally morbid subject and turn it into something witty and engaging. Clementine is a great character; fully realized and colorful, she adds snark as much as poignancy to the story. This could be a very dark novel, dealing with extreme depression, abandonment, and personal fears, Clementine’s narrative has the potential to become an existentialist playground, but it just manages to steer clear of that as Clementine finds meaning in the madness.

This is an oddly entertaining novel, if you don’t mind a bit of dark humor. Clementine’s constant need to pee, her renewed sense of flavor after dumping her cocktail of antidepressants, and her unapologetic determination to do things her way, including leaving her car as the tip after a lavish last meal to ensure it does not become a loose end after her death, add a tragicomic element that make the story more than just a manic depressive’s final manifesto.

I received my copy from William Morrow.

Dirty Little Angels

Reading Chris Tusa’s Dirty Little Angels is like delving into a story by Flannery O’ Connor–the characters are flawed and corrupt, their world is rotten with moral decay, and they are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Hailey, a tenth-grader with more to worry about than math tests, is caught in the midst of her family’s decline. Depression grips them all and there is nothing to be done about it. Her mother’s miscarriage, her father’s unemployment, and her brother’s delinquencies only add to Hailey’s sense that everything is falling apart, making the roaches buzzing in her head shred her mind to bits.

Looking for answers, Hailey finds her brother’s friend, Moses Watkins, an ex-con who wants to hand drive-thru salvation to the good people of New Orleans.

The story is gritty and dark. It’s not what I usually read, but I was intrigued by the summary when Mr. Tusa asked me to review the novel. I had read a few reviews that noted the frequent use of metaphors in the story; it can be distracting at times, but at times it adds to the reader’s understanding of Hailey’s confusion (the state of her decaying sense of self).

I would recommend it to someone interested in fiction about life’s hard knocks. I would not classify Dirty Little Angels as Street Lit, but it might also appeal to someone interested in this genre.

As I said, it is a dark novel–there is violence, poverty, and self-destruction. It can be hard to read and the characters are often hateful, making it hard to sympathize with their plight, but they are realistic in their flawed, emotionally impoverished state.