Back sometime in the late 1980′ or early 1990’s, when I was working in a bookstore, I remember publishers trying out a ‘new’ trend, releasing very thin paperback books – novelettes and novellas really – usually older works by noted authors. The idea was that with the quickly rising costs of printing books, this was an affordable way for readers to connect with their favorite authors. The idea did not catch on. (Some of those books were so thin it was hard to understand how they could get a perfect binding.)
But as almost any self-published author today will tell you, selling a novelette or novella in digital format is not only easy, it makes a lot of sense. People will often shell out a dollar or two for a quick read. And now that the publishers are getting back on board with this, publishing a recognizable and renowned author’s short works for a $1, I suspect that the market might just explode.
The only problem here, however, is that publishers are taking old works, easily found in a collection elsewhere, and trying to get us to buy them again. Will we do it? I guess it depends on how much you want to reread that story and would rather just put it on a Kindle for a dollar rather than search your bookshelf or your library for the same story. It so happens that I really like Anne Tyler and I’d but this for a buck.
Tyler writes brilliantly about ordinary people and ordinary tragedies. “Teenage Wasteland” is one of those ordinary tragedies.
Daisy Coble tries to be a good mother. She only wants what’s best for her son, but she’s not equipped with the life skills to provide. She’s distraught when she learns that Donny is misbehaving at school, and she is sick with grief that she has failed as a parent.
Doing the best she can, she hires a tutor for Donny, though the tutor has some unusual ideas on how to help the boy, and the gap between mother and son widens until it is too much of a chasm to bridge.
This is not a feel-good story. This is a tragedy and reading a short story that isn’t necessarily positive (I think there are some positive aspects here) is difficult for a lot people.
One of the bigger issues with the story is actually that it leaves the reader with so many questions. I don’t mind some questions when I finish a book or a story, but this little slice of Daisy and Donny’s lives with so many unanswered questions, and a lost and bewildered Daisy that it’s hard to understand what benefit there was to reading this.
This is the sort of book or story that needs to be read in a classroom or a book club so that people can talk about it. The story begs discussion.
Looking for a good book? If you don’t belong to a group that talks about books, you might want to skip Anne Tyler’s “Teenage Wasteland.” But if you do have a reader’s group, consider giving this a read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Anny Tyler
Kindle Edition, 18 pages