Published by Colony Collapse Press on Jun. 13, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Novella
Source: Publisher, TLC Book Tours
Late Lights is a novella-length book that reads like a collection of linked short stories about three childhood friends, Monty, B.J., and Erin, who are trying to figure out their relationships with each other in their late teenage years. Monty has been in and out of juvenile detention for years, B.J. is a sexually confused tomboy who can’t come to terms with her changing body, and Erin is struggling to figure out how her wrong-side-of-the-tracks friends fit into her privileged life.
“For years the three of them did everything together. Past the point when even they know they were not at all the same kids they had been. They’d grown up, and they’d grown apart.”
We first meet Monty during one of his stints in juvie, and reading about his experience was a harsh awakening to the realities of life in juvenile detention. The conditions the boys there live under seem very cruel, and I empathized with Monty’s desire to turn his life around, become someone his deadbeat dad could be proud of, and grow up to be the kind of adult that has an education and listens to NPR.
When Monty gets of out juvie, he meets B.J. at her house, where an interaction between them leads B.J. to later commit a horrible act of self violence. One of the things I really liked about this novella, especially in B.J.’s sections, was Weiss’s tendency to leave some things unsaid; I like that she treats her readers as adults who can read between the lines. I also think her reluctance to explicitly describe B.J.’s problems reflects the girl’s inability to understand or vocalize her own emotions.
Later, Erin must deal with the fallout of an affair with her Ivy League track & field coach. She decides to transfer to a different college, and B.J. visits to help Erin move out of her dorm. Although their friendship goes back ages, Erin can’t help but notice how badly B.J., with her neon-patched DaKine backpack, sticks out in the landscape of Patagonia messenger bags.
“No one tells you the rules change — that certain things are conditional, that they simply expire — that certain friendships have a shelf life. I’d crossed an invisible boundary and there was no way to take it back.”
I would have liked to see the characters relate — or try to relate — to each other more. We know they have been friends since childhood and now their lives have gone all kinds of different ways, but in an odd way they don’t really seem to care about each other in the moment or try to help each other through difficult situations. For example, although Erin and B.J. are supposed to be great friends, Erin never asks B.J. about her injury, and the girls don’t really talk about Erin’s situation as she’s leaving school. I wanted something deeper from them.
I also would have liked to learn more about her characters’ motivations for some of their actions — why did Monty steal a car, how did Erin justify sleeping with her coach and taking the coach’s wife’s history class? However, I think this lack of detail is a limitation of the form; although I would have liked to know more, Weiss manages to convey a lot in 123 pages. Aside from these issues, I thought Late Lights was a very good novella. The writing is strong, and Weiss does a good job of putting the reader inside her characters’ heads. For such a short book (I read it in two hours), it packs a punch.
I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.
LATE LIGHTS GIVEAWAY
The publishers of this book have kindly offered a copy of Late Lights to give away. To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US/Canadian residents. This giveaway will be open until 12 a.m. August 7.