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Oakland novelist Jess Mowry, who has acted as "Apollo's" mentor, shepherded into book form the six vivid stories that comprise this auspicious, if awkward, debut. The stories, all dealing with the disillusionments and dangers of growing up black in the inner city, are essentially thin and unvaryingly predictable and sentimental. "Four Wolves and a Panther" tells of a lonely white kid, ignored by his family, who yearns to be black—and culminates in a "surprise" ending that won't surprise anybody. "Jungle Game" grafts an unbelievable plot onto a dreamy boy's willed identification with a black panther (a recurring image) abused by its keeper at the city zoo. Other pieces are similarly marred by hyperbole, though Apollo produces some gritty dramatic effects in two tales of teenagers lured into drug-related violence: "Trash Walks" and (especially) "Bad Boyz," the latter of which hums with a surrealistic intensity that's briefly reminiscent of Richard Wright. Is there talent here? Absolutely—in Apollo's ability to move a story swiftly toward its conclusion, in sharp observations of his neighborhoods' blighted lunar landscapes, and in his precocious and obviously genuine obsession with important social issues and tensions. But his people aren't real yet: All his male protagonists are either grossly overweight or sleekly, gracefully muscular; his women are either nagging mothers or docile girlfriends; his white characters, with a single exception, racist imbeciles. This isn't what life is like; it's what life seems like to a sensitive preadolescent.
Mowry was surely right to encourage Apollo to write fiction—and Gloria Naylor was as surely wrong to include his work in her Best Short Stories by Black Writers. What this promising young writer needs now is, simply, more practice writing; less premature praise; and more stringent editing.
-- Robert L. Allen, Ph.D., senior editor, The Black Scholar, and coeditor of Brotherman: The Odyssey Of Black Men In America
"Despite the international fascination with hip-hop culture, few have written about it from the inside. Not only has fifteen-year-old Apollo given us the goods, he has produced some first-rate prose as well. By the time he's twenty he'll put us all out of business."
-- Ishmael Reed
"Apollo's characters are heir to a kind of cynicism only the ghetto can breed. Concrete Candy is an often startling view inside the mind of a talented fifteen-year-old writer grappling with questions of race, identity, and social justice in his young world, a world all too soon scarred by American nihilism." -- Cheo Tyehimba, coauthor of The Ghetto Solution
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Posted January 23, 2000
Apollo was only 13 when he wrote these stories and they are all on tha real! This book speaks! I liked tha stories 'Trash Walks' because the white boy is really the bravest Panther of all. 'Jungle Game' is a magic story about boys who dream of somehow escaping tha innercity, and 'Trash Walks' is a wake-up call that kids are dying. 'Blackbirder' is a sweet story telling us that so much of tha 'history' we are taught is really European history, and 'Bad Boyz' tells us what being a real black man SHOULD be all about. I hope to see many more books by this majorly-talented young Brother!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.