Phoenix by Jennifer Mason-Black
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe
At sixteen, Tucker has nothing but the clothes on his back, the bruises on his ribs, and the truth about what happened between him and the band teacher. He left home looking to escape his memories, but all he’s found on the road are new bad ones to take their place.
Then he meets Gabriel, a beautiful hustler, and Kelsey, a fire-obsessed girl with a head full of fairy tales. After Gabriel rescues him from a pair of drunks looking for a fight, Tucker’s happy to join him in the abandoned factory he calls home. All he must do in return is help keep Kelsey safe.
There’s always a way out. The trick is to stick around long enough to discover it.
Accurately capturing what it feels like to be a teenager isn’t easy. This is one of those rare books that knows exactly how to talk about complex issues like homelessness, abuse, depression and homophobia without talking down to or alienating its audience. Older readers, especially those who have personal experience with any of these issues, will be catapulted back to the wonder, pain and confusion that can come with living on the cusp of adulthood.
Because this story jumps around in time I finished the last page wishing we could know more about the years of Tucker’s life that happen between his time spent as a terrified homeless youth and the man he eventually becomes. A few clues are sprinkled throughout the story to connect his teenage and adult selves but I’d still love to see a sequel fill in these gaps. Some people transform suddenly while others take years to build the life they’ve always wanted. I cannot help but to wonder to which category Tucker would belong!
It was difficult to pick an appropriate rating for this book. A (consensual) sexual encounter is briefly alluded to and several scenes include graphic depictions of violence that would be inappropriate for younger or sensitive readers. As powerful and inspiring as this book was I think it’s best suited for older teens for these reasons.
If you’ve ever wanted to skip ahead during a difficult chapter of your life to see how everything turns out in the end Phoenix is the perfect book for you.