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Concrete Candy: Stories Paperback – March 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Imagine you are an adolescent boy-man, footing it on your board through the streets of Oaktown, your only priorities being school and staying alive. Then imagine adulthood as a world of confusion and absence. That gives you an idea of the life of Jamie, Jamar and Chad, three of the protagonists of this debut collection of stories by the 15-year-old Apollo. These six stories, held together by recurring themes and imagines, bring the average reader of literary fiction knee-deep up inside of the lyricism of rap, grunge, and American youth culture. The writing is edgy, sophisticated, and poignant without posturing or rank commercialism. The protege of Jess Mowry (Way Past Cool), Apollo writes stories that are a trip through the West Coast of Freestyle Fellowship, the Pharcyde and Beastie Boys. With poise, control and an ear finely tuned to the pulse of popular culture, Apollo describes coming of age in the inner city as only an insider could. The frustration common to the theme is muted and humorous, especially when describing the dichotomies of urban and suburban life: "The decaying brick-and-concrete jungle of the boys' neighborhood faded from their minds as they entered a world of happy kids and fluffy animals: the Oakland Zoo." Fresh and poetic, Apollo's style is at times childlike, and at its best evokes echoes of Roald Dahl and of Jean-Michel Basquiat's neo-expressionistic paintings. Concrete Candy is an elegant and deceptively unaffected book: it may simply be his age that gives his work the raw original flavor, but that hardly matters.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A first collection depicting life in the black ghetto of Oakland, California, by a pseudonymous author who began writing it three years ago, when only 12 years old. 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. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor books ed edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385477805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385477802
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jad Jameson on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Its really good to see that a young person was allowed to write a book like this for other young people like me. (I am 17) These stories are ON THE REAL and tell tha truth about what its like to be a kid in the innercity today. I wish I have found this book years ago so it would have saved me from doing a lot of stupid things. I think fictional stories like these tell it much better than any surveys or non fiction can do. Apollo has a very good way of writing and I hope to see many more books by this talented Brother!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of book that, if it had been given the media attention and respect it deserves, might have prevented some of the recent tragedies we have seen in our schools. Who better to capture the rage, frustration and alienation of young people that a thirteen-year-old writer. And when will we ever wise up and begin to listen, not to the so-called "experts" but to our own children who actually live thse lives? Each of these stories is brilliantly crafted and gripping. There is brutalitly, violence and despiar, but it is balanced by humor, comraderie and love. This book should be in every school library in the U.S. And, frankly, I don't think "Kirkus" would know a GOOD book if it walked up and kicked them!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
What most reviewers can't seem to understand about this book is that it was written by a 13-YEAR-OLD. (I wonder what most of them were doing at 13?) It's a shame that Amazon chose to use a review (to advertise the book) in which it seems obvious the reviewer only skimmed..."Apollo" is NOT a "pseudonymous" name, nor are all of the characters portrayed as (this reviewer) describes. One might get the impression... at least from some whitefolk... that young innercity kids are "expected" to be doing something different than writing books that promote the positive for their peers. But, if you want the right information, go to the source.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D'Andre on January 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Apollo can take my back any time. I was very surprised when I found out that he wrote this book when he was only 13. I think there should be a lot more books written by kidz for kidz like this one. Apollo spoke to me in my own words and I believe what he says. Some of these stories are sad or violent but all of them teach on tha real. I liked 'Four Wolves And A Panther' because tha white boy was really tha best panther of all. 'Trash Walks' was like a reminder that a lot of people don't care if kidz live or die. 'Bad Boyz' was an on point story about what being a black man should be all about and not what so many kidz think it's all about. 'Blackbirder' was a sweet story about how most of the 'history' we are taught in school is really European history. I hope Apollo writes a lot more books. Don't listen to 'Kirkus Reviews', and don't sleep on this book.
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