Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives by Sharon G. Flake 2004
Hyperion/Jump at the Sun
Rating: 3/5 (I decided to rate this anthology since it's by the same author. I will not however rate anthologies by several authors)
IQ "But what's in us don't just evaporate like steam from hot pipes. That's what's my mother used to say anyhow. It lingers, like sediment (your momma taught me them words), and every now and then it turns into what it was meant to be in the first place." Daddy, Letter To My Daughter, pg. 211
I decided to share a short summary of each story along with my thoughts on it (the title is self explanatory if you want to know the theme of the book)
1. So I Ain't No Good Girl- The main character doesn't have a name, but in the typical story, she's dating a guy who treats her badly. He abuses her, cheats on her and she always takes him back. The summary of the story reads like a cliche, but what makes the story good is that the author tries to help unsympathetic readers (like myself) understand why a girl would stay with a guy who treats her badly. It made sense and was the right length. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that I didn't particularly care that it ended where it did.
2. Girl, Didn't I Say I Don't Write Letters?-Devita Mae and Jaquel are in the same English class and they are given an assignment to write letters to each other. The letters can be about anything they want, but the teacher can read it. This was the funniest story. I always like the whole gender wars/boys writing letters to girls, etc so I was entertained by the premise. The dialogue is snappy and fun "Watch out, Jaquel. That big thing floating around the room is your head; too much hot air made it pop off and fly away." (pg. 21). Jaquel and Devita Mae obviously become friends and their friendship is rushed, but there are some setbacks. The setbacks aren't big crises which is nice, they are natural issues that arise in high school (I think they are freshmen). We also read Devita Mae's diary to learn about what she keeps back from Jaquel. Very cute story and the ending was satisfying.
3. The Ugly One-Saddest story. My heart went out to Asia Calloway who is a self-described "regular girl" except for her face which is covered in boils. She has been mocked all her life and it just...makes your blood boil (no pun intended) at the cruelty of kids. However, I didn't care for the storyline. It was short and while understandable, it still felt odd.
4. Mookie in Love-Another odd story. Perhaps odd isn't the right word, but a few of the stories seemed a bit out-there. This story was entertaining but rather crazy. Mookie is the cousin of the narrator and he's the only boy in the whole extended family. He's spoiled rotten until he falls in love. The women in his family are appalled at this and do everything they can to sabotage the relationship. Mookie and Shana (his girlfriend) were cheesy but the actions of Mookie's family were so out there that I just ignored the cheesiness and enjoyed the antics.
5. Don't Be Disrespecting Me-One of my favorite stories from the anthology. It's a typical Romeo and Juliet story. E (short for Erin, but Erin is a guy) is poor, Ona is rich. Noodles says that E is wasting his time on Ona, Noodles only uses girls for money and Ona doesn't seem like the type who would let herself be used. E is desperate to make some money and tkae Ona to the school dance so he makes a choice. This choice will (obviously) change his life and the climax is dramatic. More please!
6. I Like White Boys-A diverting story about Erika who likes white boys (duh), especially Johnny. Johnny who is unavailable, who doesn't date girls like Erika. Erika doesn't like to sit with the Black kids at school, all of whom are on scholarships. She is too, but unlike her Black classmates, she wants to speak "proper" English and she doesn't care to date Black guys. She's called an "oreo". The story ending was random, but the idea behind it was a good one. Although I didn't walk away really understanding why Erika likes white guys over Black guys.
7. Jacobs's Rules-Another darling story about gender roles. It's the classic throw-a guy and girl together-to raise a baby story (except there's no baby, they just have to pretend to be married). I really liked this story too, especially because Brandon treats Marimba so wrong. He's not some unrealistic chivalrous freshman, he knows what he wants and he doesn't care who knows it. The marriage thing was actually a really cool twist. At times Brandon's behavior is incomprehensible, but then again, I know guys like him. Fav line:" Girls think they know what they want until they get it. Then when it ain't right, instead of ditching it like an old skirt that don't fit no more, they let out the seam, dye it or try to change it into something it's not. [...] Then they complain about it not fitting and stuff." (pg. 119, Jonathon). Girls, is this not true?
8. I Know a Stupid Boy When I See One-I don't know how I feel about this story. The main character isn't appealing, the love interest is unconventional and the story is sad I suppose, but I felt no sympathy. Probably my least favorite, but props for writing a story with an unlikable main character. However I didn't care in the slightest about the outcome. The main character should have had at least one redeeming characteristic.
9. Hunting for Boys-A group of girls raised in a super conservative church and home decide to finally rebel. they go looking for boys and of course, they go about it in all the wrong ways. Just an OK story.
10. Wanted: A Thug-By now I was tired of reading stories about girls who stayed with guys who weren't good for them, so my patience had worn thin. Therefore, I was biased going into this story but it was a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect the little twist at the end, although I still don't get why any girl would want a thug. I really don't get it and I can't wait till I find a book that actually explains it to me.
11. Not a Boy-Charming and awkward story about a guy asking a girl on a first date. If only he had listened to his parents. But that would have ruined the fun :)
12. A Letter to my Daughter-Another favorite story. How can you not find a story sweet when a father writes a letter to his daughter? A perfect length filled with good advice that makes up for some of the less-than-great stories in this collection. Best story to end with. Favorite bit of advice: "Second, don't get all excited if some boy is nice to you. Ain't the mailman nice to you? And what about your teachers, the drunk on the corner or the little boy up the street? Nice ain't nothing much. shoot, I'm nice to the snaggletoothed woman who scrubs the floors where I work. You think I wanna date her? Let me get back to the point. Alicia, you deserve a boy who is more than nice to you. Women be thinking nice is enough. It ain't. It's a low bar to set for yourself. You deserve a boy who's gonna respect you." (pg. 214)
A variety of stories keep the book interesting but a a few do fall flat. They all had potential, but only some lived up to their full potential.
Disclosure: Bought forever ago. haha