Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sweet, Hereafter (YA)

Sweet, Hereafter. Angela Johnson. 2010. [January 2010] Simon & Schuster. 118 pages.

There's a front page photo of my friend Jos standing by the side of the road on a hot summer day. I almost don't recognize him, because he's out of place. It's a frozen moment in time--but I'm so used to Jos being animated, funny and moving. It bothers me that one picture can define everything in other people's minds but never really tell the whole story.

The Sweet, Hereafter is the final book in the Heaven trilogy by award-winning author Angela Johnson. Though each book in the trilogy has a different narrator, they do all share the same setting. (The only one I haven't read is The First Part Last. It always seems to be checked out when I'm at the library. My review of Heaven.)

Sweet, Hereafter stars Shoogy, a young woman who always feels out of place, like she doesn't belong anywhere. So one day she runs away from home. Not far. Just far enough. She finds solace in a cabin in the woods. She finds solace with Curtis. A young man who is haunted by his past. He's a soldier. He's returned from Iraq. But he's broken, changed. Together they are finding some peace. But Shoogy fears even this won't last. She knows that Curtis is supposed to go back for another tour in Iraq. Something that she knows he just can't do.

A few things about Curtis...
He loves dogs.
He's six feet two.
Never swears.
He hardly eats meat but loves fish.
Loves hip-hop, jazz, baroque, bluegrass...
Has seven brothers and sisters.
Has been to Iraq once and doesn't want to go back and doesn't want to talk about it.
His sister Sadie, the Wing Girl, is the oldest child.
He slammed poetry for a few years.
Loves silent movies.
Can recite whole parts of James Baldwin's books.
Was picked up by cops once when he was seventeen 'cause he was in the "wrong" neighborhood.
Isn't bitter, but doesn't trust like he used to.
Is three years older than me.
Didn't say no when I showed up with my box of jeans. (39-40)
The novel is beautifully written. Very compelling. The story is bittersweet and emotional. But good. It's easy to see why Angela Johnson is an award-winning author.

If you tell a secret, it's out in the world forever. You can't ever take it back or explain to the person whose secret it was why you gave it up.
If you don't tell a secret, my mom says it's like living in a little bit of hell--forever.
But I don't believe in hell.
At least not the one the pastor in my old church talked about.
I do have secrets.
But maybe it's not a secret at all. Maybe I could always see it in his eyes. Feel it when he was with me one minute and gone the next minute even when I still held him beside me.
So it's best not to tell.
For now. (44)
I do recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

April (BooksandWine) said...

I'm dying to read some Angela Johnson. Her books sound excellent. Thanks for sharing those quotes, they were lovely.