I’ve been remiss on reviewing books I’ve read. School and grading papers will do that to me.
GAP LIFE by John Coy is a delight. I read it early in January, and Cray, the protagonist has stuck with me. I find myself wondering how he’s doing on the adventure he undertook at the end of the book. To me, that’s the sign of a terrific character: he becomes so real that he takes on a life of his own and we wonder what he’s doing long after closing the final pages of the book.
Cray is all set, at high school graduation, to follow in his domineering father’s footsteps. His secret terror: that he cannot do it, and hasn’t told anyone.
Every teenager struggling with “What do I want to do with my life?” — and even every college freshman or sophomore struggling with that question–needs to read this book. That’s not because John Coy provides answers, but because the book makes us feel not alone. That, in fact, is exactly what great literature should do: help us recognize that somewhere, in our pain or struggles, we are not alone.
Society tends to make us feel all alone when we don’t know what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we have an overbearing parent who tells us what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we don’t want what our parents want for us or what society wants for us, and yet we flounder because we can’t counter the pressure, unable to articulate what we do want–probably–because we have never been given the freedom to explore our own desires. This book is all about that struggle.
GAP LIFE is not a dystopian drama where life-and-death hang in the balance. It’s the internal workings of a real human character whose skin we jump right into, whose struggle becomes ours as we read the first page. Not life-and-death, no, but life-and-death of the human soul and spirit. We can’t put the book down because we want to keep breathing with Cray, to discover if he will have the strength to find his own dream and then to follow it, and if he can connect with Rayne, the only girl he knows who follows her own heart. Most of all, I think Cray is a character we like so much we want to hang out with him, be inside his life, and keep walking with him, long after we’ve finished this book.
This is in many ways a quiet book. I didn’t look at any other reviews until just now. Some critics say there wasn’t enough conflict to be engaging. And lots of marketers eschew “quiet” books. Their loss. Their big loss. This is a quiet book that is as big as the human heart. John Coy creates an everyday life that we jump right into because of its clear, smooth prose and delightfully consistent detail: those things that make an everyday life, so that we are living inside Cray on every page. Everybody–parent, teacher, librarian, kid, grandparent–should absorb this story.
Good luck in your life, Cray. I’ll remember you for the rest of mine.