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What I'm Reading: O Street

O StreetO Street by Corrina Wycoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I posted this review to Amazon back in 2007 but am adding it to Goodreads now to share the love. Here's my Amazon review, which still stands: O Street is the kind of book that is sadly missing from mainstream literature. It's engrossing and incredible in its realism, a book that makes you want to buy copies for everyone you know. O Street would be a candidate for publication by a major publishing house if only it weren't true that editors think no one wants to know that a young girl can go through a life like this one, through no fault of her own, just the chance of birth behind it. Which is not to say that Other Voices isn't a commendable press, a real coup for Wycoff, and a force of nature in contemporary literature. You'll thank them for believing in this book.

Wycoff makes us confront the failures of society, the way people like the mother protagonist fall through those cracks, which aren't cracks at all but more like chasms. Wycoff doesn't apologize for her political edge in this book, but neither is O Street a polemic. The argument is in the heartbreak at the heart of the story. You will want to rescue Beth, and you will cheer when she rescues herself in the absence of any other savior.

Never mind the somewhat dismissive Publishers Weekly reference to "degradations and disappointments" that are "sounded like elements in therapy." The whole of literature depends upon elements that could be discussed in therapy. Wycoff eschews banal self-help assessments and solutions and instead delivers a gripping story, in the voice of a talented writer:

"The O Street Girl came back to school today. She arrived between the first and second homeroom bells. She'd been absent since last January, and now it was October, and so many things had happened, things you would have told her once, before she was the O Street Girl, when she was Beth Dinard, your friend. But no one was talking to her today, so you couldn't tell her about your first French kiss, your first hit off a joint, your first fistfight. No one was talking to her and no one was talking to each other and so much happened since she went away."

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