Monday, October 27, 2008

Absolute Brightness-- James Lecesne

Have you ever read a book jacket that gave away such a crucial plot point, it made you wonder what else could possibly happen that was more significant? Absolute Brightness tells you right off the bat that the boy pictured on the cover, Leonard, disappears in a tragic way. Somehow, knowing in advance that it was going to happen made the anticipation while reading the book even stronger.

Phoebe is living on the Jersey Shore with her beautician mother and sister Deirdre who is recovering from sexual abuse. Although life is not easy on their family, the three women are managing to find their own way. Phoebe is a magenta haired, vocal black sheep in her family, until Leonard shows up and slightly displaces her spotlight. Leonard is Phoebe and Deirdre's cousin, and he comes to live with them after his mother dies and no one else will take him in. Leonard is instantly loved by the elderly women who frequent Phoebe's mother's beauty shop, and despite some ingrained homophobia, the community begins to really accept Leonard and his colorful personality. Meanwhile, Phoebe finds herself a bit lost, and blames Leonard for it. She ends up with the wrong kind of guy (REALLY wrong) and does everything she can to just make Leonard disappear from her life... until he really does. And it's only after Leonard is gone that she realizes how much love and respect he had for her... and how much she had for him.

Absolute Brightness was quite well written, and although there were times that I felt the plot could have moved a little faster, I was very invested in the characters and outcomes of each of their stories. This book does not shy away from tough topics, and really focuses on the idea that ethics and morals are not a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. The author raises tough questions, and whether readers agree with Lecesne's assertions, they will be drawn in by his storytelling.

I would recommend this book for both guys and girls who enjoy mysteries like those written by Kevin Brooks or Carol Plum-Ucci. It would also be good for teens who like to ponder ethical decision-making and want to read stories about middle class people rather than the influx of rich kid books we have been seeing recently.

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