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Rush Hour: Volume Two - Bad Boys

Review

Rush Hour: Volume Two - Bad Boys

In the foreword that opens BAD BOYS, the second volume of RUSH HOUR: A Journal of Contemporary Voices, bad boy author Jack Gantos meditates on the difference between bad boys and bad men by something his father once said to him:

"A bad boy is only grab-assing around, where a bad man is grabbing ass," Gantos writes. "In my mind I was thinking okay, one is flirtatious, one is a felony. I was also thinking he might have been telling me to be bad when I was young, because later in life bad adult behavior looks cheap and shabby and criminal. But what his explanation also said to me is that by being a boy I was protected by the excesses of my own misguided youth, and that there was some extra period of understanding given to the bad boy. I figured that sympathetic window of understanding was somewhere between the ages of thirteen and twenty-three and then the goodwill would expire."

RUSH HOUR is clearly geared towards readers in the 13-23 "bad boy" demographic. Volume one of the journal, based on the theme of sin, broadly hit the mark with a variety of poems, short stories and essays. Volume two does not pack the same punch as the first, but it does have a number of intriguing offerings.

While there are a number of provocative short stories in this volume, the stand out contributions are both nonfiction. "Andy Warhol: Prince of Pop," excerpted from a newly released biography by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, stretches the definition of bad boy to include the notorious leading figure of the pop art movement. While an iconoclastic, homosexual artist is not an obvious choice for the role of bad boy, Greenberg and Jordan do a wonderful job evoking the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll world that revolved around him. They also clearly explain the principles behind the pop art movement, which is no easy task. Additionally, the two authors explore Warhol's background and inspirations, including a cross-country road trip Andy spent lounging on a mattress in the back of a beat-up Ford Station wagon gazing at billboards. The excerpt reads like a complete essay. Instead of leaving the reader hanging, it covers the central, controversial period of Warhol's celebrity, ending after he is shot by Valerie Solanas.

The second standout essay is "Surviving Jock Culture" by Robert Lipsyte, a New York Times sportswriter and the author of a number of critically acclaimed YA novels. There are many articles that criticize the United States' sports obsessed culture, but Lipsyte's essay is unique in its love for athletics, while clearly defining the unhealthy mindset that distorts sports and many athletes. Using Mike Tyson as a case study, Lipsyte explores the intimidation and abuse that create monsters, while simultaneously making them victims of Jock Culture. Lipsyte closes the essay with the following:

"Even if you're an athlete, you don't have to roll over for Jock Culture; you're supposed to be tough, but that doesn't only mean the easy stuff like lifting more weight and hitting harder, always trying to dominate and win. It also means facing challenging situations and making hard decisions, sometimes going against the crowd and not listening to what you know is bad advice, even if it comes from the coach. It means being a man."

Much of the volume seems geared around the line between boyhood and maturity. It contains stories of bad boys from different points of view: from the boys themselves, as in E.R. Frank's "Cousins," to brothers or victims, as in the intriguing excerpt from VANDAL, a forthcoming novel by Michael Simmons. One of the most enigmatic pieces is "Nursery" by Julia Jarcho, a piece in play format meditating on the subject of school shootings. However, one essential narrative is missing from this Bad Boy volume: the experience of girls with bad boys. It seems strange to find female protagonists missing from a volume that broadly represents female authors. This absence left me wanting more.

While not as polished as the first volume, BAD BOYS continues to take the publication in the right direction. The best new addition is some humorous artwork, which provides much needed levity between some of the more serious stories. The question isn't whether or not there is material within the pages for bad boy readers; there are clearly some excellent contributions to the field of YA lit. The question is whether or not the publication will hit its mark. I hope it does. As Jack Gantos ends his foreword, "I wouldn't mind bleeding a little bit if that would get them to read..."

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Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on October 18, 2011

Rush Hour: Volume Two - Bad Boys
by Michael Cart

  • Publication Date: September 14, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385730330
  • ISBN-13: 9780385730334