title: A Meeting at a Critical Juncture
author: Michael Doran
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 2/5 [in the genre] or 4/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Nicholas Sparks, Mitch Albom, or heartwarming coming-of-age tales.
My Ratings Explained
A young boy waits anxiously in an empty room. The boy has been bullied extensively during his life, both at school and at home, and is unsure what to expect. A familiar face walks in, introduces himself, and the conversation they have has a profound impact on each of their lives.
the basicsThis story just wasn't really for me. The concept is something I've come across a lot before and I just didn't leave the story feeling I'd gained something new, which is exceptionally important to my enjoyment of a short story. I felt more like I was reading an interview. It just didn't grab me. That said, the writing was very clean and with a few exceptions, polished well. I think it would appeal to people who enjoy sweet, heartwarming stories more than I do. I prefer more grit, I think.
plot . 2/5Part of why I just thought this story was okay was that I didn't feel a lot of movement happening. Now, that doesn't mean action. Samuel Beckett wrote some of the best plays about two people simply sitting, talking. What was missing for me was an objective. I didn't feel like I was being led anywhere. I also guessed the ending reveal early on, so it wasn't surprising to me. I would have preferred to know the reveal from the outset and to see how that played out. As is, it was mostly the older character asking Steve questions and Steve talking about being bullied. I also didn't really get how Steve bonded with the older guy because they both had allergies.
concept . 3/5I won't spoil it for you, but the concept is a common one. It's the kind of conversation that every broken-down middle school kid wishes they could have. Being so common, it's also difficult to make it feel new. I think if it had gone farther, if I had more, I would have enjoyed it more.
characters . 2/5I couldn't really get a handle on Steve. I thought he was maybe five, eight tops during the first part of the story. It wasn't until he mentioned all the cool boys having girlfriends that I realized he must be in at least eighth grade. His voice also felt a little generic to me. I connected deeply with him around the issue of being a sad, lonely middle schooler. That part was done well. I just couldn't separate him in my mind from any other sad, lonely middle schooler, so it was hard for me to see him as a real person.
style . 3/5There was nothing bad about Doran's style. It just didn't grab me. The problem with focusing a story on mostly dialogue is that the dialogue has to be spot-on. It just didn't feel quite real to me. Neither Steve nor the older man used contractions at all, as far as I can recall, which made the conversation sound a little stilted and, in Steve's case, too old and proper.
mechanics . 4/5There were a few typos that jarred me, but mostly it was nicely polished.
take home messageA coming-of-age story; I would have liked to see it challenge itself more, push the limits.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.