The Sweet In-Between

The Sweet In-Between

3.6 9
by Sheri Reynolds
     
 

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"Kendra, or "Kenny," has grown up in a family that's not really hers. Her momma died of cancer when Kenny was very young, and "Aunt" Glo is, in fact, her daddy's girlfriend, who took her in when her father was sent to jail for drug trafficking." "Nearing eighteen years old and facing confusion over her sexuality, Kenny binds her chest with ACE bandages and keeps her…  See more details below

Overview

"Kendra, or "Kenny," has grown up in a family that's not really hers. Her momma died of cancer when Kenny was very young, and "Aunt" Glo is, in fact, her daddy's girlfriend, who took her in when her father was sent to jail for drug trafficking." "Nearing eighteen years old and facing confusion over her sexuality, Kenny binds her chest with ACE bandages and keeps her hair cropped short like a boy's. Her gender ambiguity makes her an outcast at school and, even at times, at home, where her adopted family isn't really sure what to make of her." When a senseless murder occurs in their run-down coastal town - a college student mistakenly entering the wrong home is killed - Kenny becomes obsessed with thoughts of the dead girl and with her own fears that she will be alone in the world when she turns eighteen. She makes it her mission to become indispensable to Aunt Glo in the hopes that she can win the older woman's love, despite their not being bound by blood.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Reynolds (The Rapture of Canaan) delivers again with this story of an embattled teenage girl growing up in a Virginia tidewater town. Kendra "Kenny" Lugo has it tough: her mother is dead, her father is in jail, and she is what others might call gender-confused ("the year before I cut off all my hair and started binding myself up"). Living with her father's girlfriend, Aunt Glo, Kenny is approaching 18 and facing the possibility of being kicked out with a sense of impending doom. When their neighbor, habitually drunk Jarvis Stanley, accidentally kills a college girl, Kenny becomes fixated on the tragedy. Meanwhile, Aunt Glo struggles with painkiller addiction while raising her own kids, 12-year-old Quincy and teenaged Tim-Tim, and her runaway daughter's seven-year-old, Daphne. Kenny makes a fascinating, cagey narrator, revealing an unexpectedly dangerous family dynamic with a matter-of-factness that belies her fear and anger, and Reynolds weds expository memories with Kenny's day-to-day so seamlessly, it looks easy. Simple prose rich with subtext, convincing dialogue and a fascinating protagonist combine to produce a heartstring-plucker that's explicit, tender, sad and hopeful. (Nov.)

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Library Journal

The newest title from Oprah Book Club author Reynolds (The Rapture of Canaan) is narrated by a troubled 17-year-old negotiating life at the bottom of the social ladder in a nondescript Southern beach town. Kendra "Kenny" Lugo longs for love and security, but she has little of either. Her odd appearance makes her an outcast at school, where her peers can't guess that her deliberately boyish look is designed to fend off her stepbrother's sexual abuse. Additional stresses include dealing with her father's drug-related incarceration and her fear that her kind if clueless guardian will kick her out when she turns 18. Yet Kenny has spunk, finding solace in connecting with the local sand, water, and sea life and the strength to cope and even to hope in the surprising aftermath of a shooting tragedy. Reynolds's finely realized characters bring to life the struggles of day-to-day existence in a lower-middle-class community, and powerful evocations of the natural world provide comforting balance to the often unstable human elements in this short but powerful novel. Recommended for most fiction collections.
—Starr E. Smith

Kirkus Reviews

Her mother is dead, her father's in prison and she's trying to pass as a boy—the teenage world of Kendra "Kenny" Lugo is anything but easy in this somber fifth novel from Reynolds (Writing/Old Dominion Univ.; Firefly Cloak, 2006, etc.).

These days Kenny has just one thing on her mind—what will happen when she turns 18. For years she's lived with Aunt Glo, her father's girlfriend, who is mother to her own brood: oldest Tim-Tim, teenage Quincy and little Daphne (really the child of Glo's runaway daughter Constance). They live in an old house in a quiet, Southern seaside town, a place where the abandoned carnival grounds and a soon-to-be condo development coexist. Kenny spends much of the slim novel fixing up the workshop in the backyard (where she hopes to live), and obsessing about Clara Tinsley, the college girl who was shot next door. Clara and a friend climbed through the window of what they thought was their weekend rental cottage—but they were wrong. The house belongs to Jarvis Stanley, who mistook the girls for criminals. Kenny ponders the killing over and over. But this meandering novel is centered on Kenny's reinvention of herself—her tightly bound breasts, her shorn hair, her frantic refusal of a female identity. She claims she wanted to look like a boy to stop Tim-Tim from molesting her, but it's not as straightforward as that. Maybe she's a lesbian, maybe she has gender dysphoria; either way she's taunted at school and believes she's unlovable. Reynolds' character study begins well—Kenny is bright, fragile and worth knowing—but too much is left unsaid, too much is filtered through Kenny's lack of insight into her own world and ways. What's left are the kind of snapshotsKenny takes for the yearbook—fleeting moments that hint at a larger story.

An unusual coming-of-age novel, though a bit too opaque to be a real success.

Agent: Candice Fuhrman/Candice Fuhrman Literary Agency

From the Publisher
“Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.” —The New York Times

“Reynolds . . . is a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.” —The Boston Globe

“The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” —The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“[A]s true as butter in your grits . . . [a] powerful drama with pathos, poetry, and, unexpectedly, hope.” —People

“[A] sweet coming-of-age story, thanks to its young, wise-beyond-her-years, Scout Finch-esque heroine.” —Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781618580337
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
220
Sales rank:
1,110,800
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

We’ve come out here to fish, me and Quincy and Daphne and Aunt Glo. Daphne’s got her lunch box filled with rotten chicken necks, the rottener the better for the crabs. So I move upwind, past the stench. I’ve got my daddy’s old rod and reel, the red one with the soft cork handle. It’s got dents from where his fingers used to go.

It’s September now, and we’ve come out here to fish. But Quincy brought his skateboard, and he’s riding it all the way to the end of the pier, pissing off the heron who was catching a nap. Quincy’s wheels thrum drum through the cracks between boards, and that heron stretches out and takes off. If I could fly like that, I wouldn’t even mind looking so prehistoric. The heron settles on a channel marker out there in the bay and pulls his head into his shoulders like somebody cold.

Aunt Glo helps Daphne tie her chicken necks with string and dangle them down into the water. Daphne sniffs her fingers and says, “Ugh,” but she must like the smell, the way she sniffs them over and over. “Ugh,” she says and scrunches up her nose.

I’ve got my own cooler, and stashed inside it there’s a can of soda, a pack of saltines, a plastic bag with my still-frozen squid, and an army knife sharp enough to cut it. So I dig out a piece of squid and saw it right there, add my slashes to the thousand already carved into this wood. I choose a good-size hunk, the head, and hook it to my line. I hook it three times, through the flesh and through the eye, black juice squirting out at me, and when I cast, my line zings high and plops hard in the bay.

Now it’s the wait, the knock-knock of the line and deciding whether it’s a crab or something bigger, the reeling in sometimes, the breeze on my face, my face in the sun. It’s September, but the sun’s still hot, and when I close my eyes, I can pretend I’m on a boat sailing off to somewhere else.

On that boat, heading north with my face in the wind, I can forget the sounds I heard last night: the banging around, the giggles and high-pitched “shit!”s I thought at first it was just a dream and those girls were at my door and making fun of me. It was late in the night, and when I woke up, I figured somebody was pulling a prank on old Jarvis Stanley right next door.

But that was yesterday.

With the water slapping soft against the wood, I pretend I’m a tugboat captain, pulling a barge loaded with gold all the  way up to Annapolis, and I wonder if barges ever carry anything besides gravel or coal, if barges go to Annapolis at all. Annapolis is the farthest I’ve ever been, but someday I’ll go farther. I’ll go someplace where crazy things don’t happen, where girls don’t die like that girl died last night, right there in Jarvis Stanley’s living room.

Today I plan to catch a flounder. Maybe two.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“Ms. Reynolds’s poetic gifts are uncommonly powerful.” —The New York Times

“Reynolds . . . is a gifted writer with a deceptively simple style and a keen ear for dialogue.” —The Boston Globe

“The newest and most exciting voice to emerge in contemporary Southern fiction.” —The San Francisco Bay Guardian

“[A]s true as butter in your grits . . . [a] powerful drama with pathos, poetry, and, unexpectedly, hope.” —People

“[A] sweet coming-of-age story, thanks to its young, wise-beyond-her-years, Scout Finch-esque heroine.” —Entertainment Weekly

Meet the Author

Sheri Reynolds is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Rapture of Canaan. She lives in Virginia and teaches at Old Dominion University, where she is the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature.

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Sweet in Between 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dirt-poor Kendra "Kenny" is a seventeen year old who lives with her father's girlfriend, "Aunt Glo". Kenny's mother has died of cancer and her father is serving time in prison for drug-dealing. Kenny also lives with Glo's two sons, one of whom has sexually abused her, and Glo's oldest daughter's little girl whose mother has her own drug problems. The man who lives on the other side of their two-family is an alcoholic and possibly a pedophile, and when the story opens, he has just shot and killed a girl who accidentally broke into his house in the middle of the night thinking it is the rental she got for the summer. Glo is overworked and overstressed and is developing a substance abuse problem herself, and to top things off, Kenny is gender-confused, and also terrified that she will be kicked out when she turns 18 and no longer drawing foster care money for Glo from the State. So to say Kenny has problems to deal with is putting it very mildly. This is a very quick read and one that sheds some light on gender-identity and the pain, confusion, and abuse that surrounds this whole topic. Throughout the story, I found myself rooting for Kenny knowing full well that while it might (and did) end on a hopeful note, it would not be a fairy tale, happily-ever-after story and never could be. I would have preferred to see into the future and some consequences happen for the abusive brother Tim-Tim, but this is ultimately Kenny's story and how she is learning to maneuver in a very difficult world. I'll watch for more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Virginia seventeen year old Kendra "Kenny" Lugo fears the near future. Her mom died years ago of cancer and her dad is serving time. She lives with her dad¿s girlfriend ¿Aunt¿ Glo who has two kids of her own (tweener Quincy and teen Tim-Tim) and her seven years old granddaughter Daphne, dumped on her by her oldest child. Glo survives her responsibilities thanks in part to prescription pain killers.
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Kenny fears Glo will kick her out of her home once she becomes an adult, which is soon. The teen also struggles with identity issues especially hiding her feminine body. When their alcoholic neighbor Jarvis Stanley accidentally kills a college girl, Kenny obsesses over the deceased as her morbidity makes her believe Glo will kick her to the curb soon. Her plan is to soon become responsible and dependable; Glo will beg her to stay.
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Told by the frightened Kenny, THE SWEET IN BETWEEN is a fascinating family drama starring a frightened teen filled with anger, remorse and fear. The rest of Glo¿s extended family is fully developed characters who enhance the at times subtle and other moments in your face story line. However, this is Kenny¿ tale as she sadly expects the worse but hopes for the best, which in this case is not being kicked out of the only shelter, albeit a relatively poor one, she knows at a time she wonders why she feels different from girls her age.
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Harriet Klausner