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Rush Hour: Volume Three - Face

Review

Rush Hour: Volume Three - Face

One of the greatest challenges facing young adult literature is the issue of age-appropriate readership. Books intended for older teens are frequently read by younger readers, while older teens often do not read young adult literature at all. Michael Cart's RUSH HOUR: A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY VOICES has sought to address the challenge of an older teen readership by presenting edgy fiction, essays, and poetry with mature themes. The two previous offerings featured the themes of "Sin" and "Bad Boys" with stories about individuals in their teens. Volume 3 differs from the first two volumes in that it contains a large number of stories about young adults who are out of their teens, out of high school, and in some cases, even out of college.

Some readers may question the choice to feature so many protagonists who are well out of their teens. Will a teen readership understand what it is like to be someone out of college attending the wedding of an ex-girlfriend, like the protagonist of Blake Nelson's "Ceremony"? What about the challenges of finding meaningful employment, like the main character in the opening story, "Turning Japanese" by David Yoo? Or watching the decline and decay of people who were once the center of one's life as in Lara Zeises's "Me and the Bean," a reverie looking back at a young woman's high school relationship with a boy who grew up to become a drug addict?

Psychologists surmise that in contemporary American culture, adolescence extends to the age of 27. The best offerings in FACE seek to bridge the spectrum between teens and twenties. The most striking offering in the collection is Eric Shanowar's "Behind the Lines," a story told in graphic novel format about a girl whose mother gets a youth treatment that not only removes the lines from her face, but also erases the experiences that brought about maturity. It is engaging and spooky, a meditation on what we lose when our culture becomes obsessed with youth and disdains maturity. The graphic format makes the idea of vanishing identity a powerful visual metaphor.

The two nonfiction essays about identity are also interesting, if somewhat incomplete. "A Hole New Primitive World" by Kelly Milner Halls is about the "modern primitive" movement in body art and piercing. The essay offers a lot in terms of individual experiences without getting into frequently asked questions on the topic or the long-term ramifications of body modification.

Body modification of a different sort is discussed in Claibourne Smith's "The Wrong Body." The essay is about transsexuals, people who believe they were born the wrong gender, and face years of humiliation and painful operations in order to transition to their true identity. "The Wrong Body" clarifies some common misconceptions about transsexuals, including the difference between them and cross-dressers, and the difficulty faced by many transsexuals by being lumped with the GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bi Transsexual) movement that does not necessarily accept them.

This volume itself seems to be struggling with what face it will present to the world. What is the median age of their intended readership? Would that readership prefer to read about teens or people in their twenties? Is it dark and edgy, or funny and hip? Does it seek to offer a consistent tone, or does it intentionally offer a variety of different stories and styles? As this is only the third issue of the journal, it seems too early to judge. The only certainty is that the publication is provocative and worth reading, even as I hope the editor seeks to infuse RUSH HOUR's edgy realism with stories that contain more humor and hope.

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Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on October 18, 2011

Rush Hour: Volume Three - Face
by Michael Cart

  • Publication Date: April 12, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385730322
  • ISBN-13: 9780385730327