cover image Fast Company

Fast Company

DK Publishing, D. James Smith. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2625-3

This debut novel from a published poet, despite glimmers of strong imagery, gets derailed by a lack of structure. Fifteen-year-olds Cat and Jason alternate chapters in first-person narratives and, initially, the prose is specific and cogent. In Cat's introductory chapter, for instance, she hints at the sexual tensions to follow (""That was the year I had a lot of sixes occurring for me.... Six times I had opened the Bible at random, and always it was about sins of the flesh""), but the significance of the number six goes unexplained in the rest of the novel. Jason begins with his defining characteristic, his passion for in-line skating, as well as the name for his gang, the Ravens (""First time I put on my skates, my blades,... I must've looked like a big ol' crow with my feet chained down""), but, except for a few fleeting passages, readers glean little additional insight into his motives. The novel quickly takes a number of tangential paths: a subplot about one of Cat's teachers and his mentally disabled son, the accidental death of a rival gang member's brother, racial tension surrounding Cat's mother's African-American boyfriend and a climactic in-line skating competition (three Ravens hitchhike 500 miles to get there) that is rarely mentioned again. But, perhaps most disappointingly, readers will go away wondering why Cat stays with Jason despite the disrespect he shows her at nearly every turn. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)