I've been on a crazed reading streak over the last couple of weeks, reading fantastic book after fantastic book. I requested so many from the library that some were due before I finished reading them. The only one I couldn't renew was Tyrell by Coe Booth, so I bumped it up to the top of my reading pile and I was very glad I did.

Tyrell is the story of a young man who is at his wits end. His mother is irresponsible and his father is in prison, for violating parole, leaving him at fifteen with the weight of the entire household on his shoulders. His mother doesn't have a job - too busy complaining and taking the bus to visit pops in the prison - so the family subsists on what little Tyrell can scrape up. As the book begins Tyrell, his little brother Troy, and his mother have been homeless for two weeks. They're waiting to get into a family shelter but in the meantime are shunted off to a horrible, roach infested hotel.

Tyrell has heard that these sorts of hotels are bad but he's unprepared for the awful reality. It's a ridiculous distance from Troy's school and it's filthy with little or no bedding. Roaches are abundant, and of course even if Tyrell can kill all the ones in their tiny room new ones will move in from the surrounding rooms. (One of my son's friends is living in the only inhabited apartment in a building in New York and as the other tenants moved out a huge influx of pests moved in. He's overrun with bugs and mice, which I guess were lonely living in the other apartments by themselves. But I digress.) To make matters worse a snowstorm strikes, wiping out the family's chances for better accommodations.

Tyrell is desperate to find a way to make some money; big enough money to get his family off the streets and into an apartment. It's only been two weeks since they lost their home but it feels much longer and he can't bear the idea of having to wait months until his father gets out of jail and brings in enough cash. Tyrell's mother wants him out on the street earning money any way he can, preferably illegal as she thinks that's the best and fastest way to raise money. One of Tyrell's friends is a dealer and Moms is all about pushing Tyrell into the same business.

Tyrell also has girl troubles. He's dating a good girl, who will go so far and no further, and is plagued by a boy who pesters her at school and home. Tyrell itches to beat this boy up but his girl is afraid he'll end up in jail and won't give him any info, leaving him feeling more helpless than ever. He meets a girl called Jasmine at the hotel for the homeless who is sweet, sexy and listens to him, confusing him even more. She hooks him up with food for him and his family and is there for him, but she's also needy and has her own ultra serious problems.

I've read a lot of books that are supposed to be suspenseful or scary and aren't. They're formulaic or dull or the characters are so annoying I just don't care if something awful happens to them. Ms. Booth's characters are lifelike, full of flaws and wonderful. They're battered by life but they're still standing, still swinging back, still making plans and trying to figure out a way to make everything come out all right. While this novel isn't a genre book and so wasn't written to be a thriller or frightening, I was deeply worried about Tyrell through the entire book. He, his family and his friends are all in varying degrees of danger and I badly wanted to see them safe.

Ms. Booth tackles tough subjects without flinching or treating her readers as though we're fragile flowers who can only handle stories about pretty people planning prom parties. (Sorry about the alliteration, it just kind of happened.) The book Tyrell is written in non-standard English from the character Tyrell's point of view. It took me a little bit to get into but I was soon immersed in the story, successfully ignoring the proofreader part of my brain, which had panicked at first.

You can read an excerpt from Tyrell here at Ms. Booth's website. http://www.coebooth.com/chapter1.html I spoke with Ms. Booth via Twitter and she said she is working on a sequel, which is exciting news.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Kit Funtastik who writes in to say, "MOON — A Film by Duncan Jones, sticks out in my mind as heartswellingly beautiful and subtly surreal. Though there are few shots of operations amidst the moon landscape, they are of such a quality as I have never seen before and completely dazzled me. When the protagonist discovers the bizarre sinister reality of his situation, humans and robots alike left me worrying and beaming with pride for them long after I left the theatre." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.