cover image Flyy Girl

Flyy Girl

Omar Tyree. Simon & Schuster, $23 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-684-82928-9

This unremarkable African American coming-of-age story, originally published by a small press in 1993 (as was Tyree's first novel, Capital City), tracks Tracy Ellison from her sixth birthday party in 1977 to her 17th birthday. Tracy grows up in the middle-class Philadelphia suburb of Germantown. The daughter of a pharmacist and a dietitian, she is pretty and intelligent, armed with solid self-esteem and a sassy mouth. Like most of her friends, she's also boy crazy, and readers watch as her physical maturation leads to increasing sexual activity. While experiencing the indulgent, hip-hop 1980s and the insidious effects of the cocaine economy that flourishes in black communities, Tracy must also come to terms with her parents' separation. Tyree captures black language as it is spoken among peers; like Terry Macmillan he uses scatological references without restraint. The conversation of youngsters caught in a highly pressured sexual atmosphere, test-driving their sexuality long before they're old enough for a license, is profane and vivid. The narrative flow is often disrupted by too many italics and slang-defining asides, and by a rocky imbalance between neutral narration and vernacular. The real problem here is a crucial lack of depth; even when Tracy's teenage chatter gives way to some soul-searching questions, the queries themselves and the answers to them are trite and superficial. Author tour. (Oct.)