My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb

My 18th Birthday by Patricia Lieb
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre: Historical (Recent)
Length: Full Length (165 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Life in the small tri-states town of Clover, AR-LA-TX, was wonderful until the year 1960; then heartaches of the worse kind led the young guitarist, Annie Jo, to catch a Greyhound bus headed to the city lights of Memphis, TN—there she might be discovered by a talent scout. While riding through Arkansas, she tries to ignore the handsome man giving her more attention than he should. And soon action starts to pop. Annie Jo joins with members of the Civil Rights movement, gets stalked by a drunk, jailed, and kidnapped—all on her 18th birthday.

Today is the big day and Annie Jo is eagerly awaiting the arrival of six PM. Upon that magical hour, she’ll be officially eighteen. In celebration, she’s decided to pack up all that is important to her and hit the bus station – with a one way ticket out of her sleepy little town. Unfortunately, the universe has more in store for her than just a simple bus ride from Texarkana to Memphis. It’s never quite that easy though, is it? Welcome to adulthood, Annie Jo, better hold onto your hat!

Annie Jo is a pretty uncomplicated character and her simplicity makes her endearing and likable from the start. Even while nursing a broken heart and carrying around the weight of things she can’t change, she still manages to look life in the eye and see it for what it is – a rollercoaster ride of emotion and experience. Annie’s a small town girl and it shows. She does the right thing for no other reason than because it’s right. However, her small town outlook does lean towards naiveté at times, only reinforcing her innocence. Sometimes this makes her even more likable and sometimes it makes you shake your head. But she’s always true to herself and that’s a big part of why she’s so interesting.

I enjoyed the way the author told Annie Jo’s story leading up to her decision to leave Clover. She makes the flashbacks into instances of daydreaming while traveling on the bus. It was a creative and non-intrusive way to give us the back story we needed without slapping us in the face with it. I was also very impressed with the way she incorporated Annie Jo’s awakening social consciousness into the story without making it overtly obvious she was doing so. There were two issues I did have with the story. One was the sometimes simplistic sentence structure and the other being the too often repeated descriptions and phrasing. However, it wasn’t enough to completely distract you from the story, only slightly hindering your enjoyment for the moment.

My 18th Birthday is a great coming-of-age story set in the very turbulent times of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. It brings the trials of the times front and center and shows you how one courageous, if a bit naïve girl, might have handled the situation. So much is packed into the twenty-four hours of Annie Jo’s birthday, that you really have to read it to believe it.

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