Monday, 30 March 2009

Ten Mile River / Paul Griffin

Summary - Best friends Ray and José are on their own and on the run. They hide out in Ten Mile River, a wildwood Harlem park. Street-smart José and bookish, introspective Ray are closer than brothers until they meet the beautiful Trini. She’s clever and confident, and they both fall for her. But somehow Ray has to find a different future for himself.

Paul Griffin’s spare, moving prose and uncanny ear for dialogue is guaranteed to win many fans. Ten Mile River is a stunning debut novel about survival and friendship on the streets of New York City.


Review - This novel is a brand new voice on the YA scene with a story that I haven't even remotely comes across in my reading. Ray and Jose are the result of the foster system and have long ago deserted it. Since then they have been living in their shambolic digs, enjoying some creature comforts but doing without many basic needs.

The dialogue is authentic, the boys riffing off each other in a way that is very specific to guys. They love one another as brothers but many homophobic jokes make it clear that they don't love each other in that "other" way (or the opposite could be true, thought I never felt that way). Ray is the lumbering muscle of the team, armed with a fierce intelligence and a thirst for knowledge. Jose has an impressive six pack, a big mouth and is beyond impulsive. I wondered, frequently, why Ray could be bothered with this other kid? But despite their differences these two are amazingly supportive of one another in many situations - love, danger and idiotic decision making.

I grew increasingly frustrated as this narrative floated along, sometimes feeling like there was no real plan. Any attempt that Ray made towards a more stable existence was thrown away in actions motivated by his loyalty to Jose. While these situations are undeniably realistic, I was annoyed by the cyclic nature of their situations.

That being said, Griffin's dialogue is fantastic, rich and full of character. His words enabled me to truly know each of the boys with their street vocab and frequent mispronunciations (if I see opposed instead of supposed ever again I will probably scream) that are probably common for those who don't attend school. It's a well constructed novel and there is a wealth of lovely characters but I didn't completely gel with the story.

Published: 2009
Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Publisher: Text Publishing Australia
Origin: USA

1 comment:

Chicklish said...

Thanks for a fascinating review - the book sounds really different.