City by James Roy

Monday, December 23, 2013

City is a companion short story collection to James Roy's Town, which I read and loved way back in 2007. Like Town, the stories occur in an unnamed city, offering snapshots into the lives of young people. It’s supposed to be a collection for young adults, but I think it’ll appeal to older adults just as much – the stories are vivid and heart-wrenching and skillfully written, and they illustrate the beauty and anonymity of city life perfectly. I enjoyed all of the stories, but my favourites were the hilarious and absurd The Driver – wherein two less-than-bright mates try and get their friend out of a tricky (and maybe dangerous) situation) – and the more heartfelt Terminal – which takes the form of a letter a teenage boy writes to his mum (who is implied to be dying), about the first time he takes drugs. Don’t expect a great deal of conclusiveness from the stories – they are just snapshots. The links between stories are vague, tenuous, and things are rarely wrapped up neatly in the end. Why are there so few short story collections for teenagers, apart from the odd anthology? They are a brilliant, powerful format, especially for the busy and distracted. Definitely one for older teenagers, and those whose taste is a bit more literary.

Originally published in Young Vagabond.
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