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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review by Guy Donovan of ‘A Rebel Comes of Age’ by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall


Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy an empty commercial building owned by Bank of America. As they slowly transform it into a teen homeless shelter, Ange goes into crisis mode when the other residents decide to use firearms to keep a police SWAT team from evicting them.


*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*

The sequel to ‘The Battle for Tomorrow: A Fable,’ ‘A Rebel Comes of Age’ tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Angela Jones (‘Ange’ to her friends) as she and a few other teenage friends attempt to open and manage a shelter for homeless teens in an abandoned credit union building in New York City’s Bedford-Stuyvesant area.  Despite the fact that the building, which Ange and her friends christen ‘Freedom House’, is owned by Bank of America, they choose that location, knowing in advance that it will no doubt lead to a legal showdown with B of A and, likely, a physical one with law enforcement when they are inevitably ordered evicted.
The novel is written in the third person, past tense.  It is made clear early on that despite the third person presentation, the novel is about Ange and Ange alone, making the reader’s understanding of the other characters’ motivations or thoughts on any of the goings-on dependent entirely on Ange’s perception of them or the ensuing dialog.  Sometimes this is quite effective and sometimes it is not.  On the whole though, it is a very easy read with little confusion as to what is going on or why, with the exceptions being the narrative elements that are intended by design to provide confusion for Ange as she goes through the story.
Readers who are averse to stories that present dialog written as it sounds may take issue with many of the surrounding characters in this novel.  For the most part though, I found the author’s use of slang and intentional misspellings added a realistic flavor to the story of youths who have grown up mostly on the streets of New York City.
The way in which the author provides support to the cast of young protagonists in the form of several protest organizations and a local church group propels the story along to its conclusion in a clean, effective manner but I felt that it also tended to minimize the struggles that such young, inexperienced types would have in attempting to organize such a daunting project.  In fact, I felt more than once that the novel would have been served better for the young people of Freedom House to have to struggle just a bit harder.  Quite a bit is offered up to them by various characters/community groups with minimal effort, hampering the feeling that what they were striving for was something that was hard to accomplish.
Conversely, however, there are numerous examples of strife from within the group of teens itself that rung true, particularly given the places and home lives that many of these characters are indicated as having come from.  These internal problems in fact provide for much of the conflict that Ange must deal with in order to both attain her goals of making Freedom House a permanent establishment and truly coming of age as a person.
On a negative note, I feel compelled to point out that the flow of the story became increasingly hampered by a number of misspellings, typos, and even incorrect details involving weapons terminology that mounted toward the climax of the novel.  I understand completely that self-edited novels such as ‘A Rebel Comes of Age’ are more likely to contain such errors than so-called ‘professional’ novels (a term I have come to detest, by the way) but after a point they can become a hindrance to the story and that is, unfortunately the case here.  A second pass by the author would be in the novel’s best interests.
On a more positive note though, I found ‘A Rebel Comes of Age’ to be an effective story of a teen with a dream, drive, and determination to take on daunting odds while struggling to find her own identity in a world that, from her viewpoint at least, has no interest in her.  And that, after all, is at the heart of all great protagonists. 

I do recommend this novel to anyone interested in/outraged by the growing dominance of the world’s major corporations over our elected officials and our very lives.  While clearly wearing her political heart upon her sleeve, Dr. Bramhall has provided the youth of today with a character role model in Angela ‘Ange’ Jones.  She, and people like her represent a hope for a better future that must sometimes be striven for, rather than given to you.