From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-An affecting memoir told in verse, this work launches a promising young poet. It is more than the recollection of faltering family life; it also deals with Merrell's acceptance of his homosexuality. It is about sons and brothers, friends and lovers. The individual poems enhance one another yet stand alone. The language is measured, doled out carefully, artfully. He writes about his mother: "She's known, she'll say, since I was five/and I'll want to ask why/she didn't tell me sooner, but instead ask/if she's okay." Memories of when he and his father almost speak of his closet homosexuality, and when the moment passes are related in poignant phrases. The poems reveal the author's journey through childhood through the worrisome pit of teen sexuality, made all the more harrowing when a lover dies of AIDS. He silently carries around his fear for ages. He writes, "Admitting/the danger is a danger in itself." This memoir is as difficult as it is beautiful. Merrell writes, "Years later I'll wonder how I didn't know I was lonely when everyone around me did." His sophisticated verse and compelling story will capture attention as it stirs compassion.Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
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Gr. 9-12. Merrell has packed a lot of memories into his 22 years: his parents' divorce and remarriages ("I was seven, and remember you loving each other, then not"); realization of his homosexuality ("You sort of know. In that vague way you know you want to write or paint"); and his own failed and new relationships. He has also packed away a lot of wisdom about life, death, self-acceptance, and the vagaries of love and lust. Likewise, he has honed his writing craft, and his free-verse memoir is rich with metaphor, words carefully chosen to say enough but not too much. In one beautiful poem, for example, he alludes to death as that first terrifying jump off the diving board: "Is that what Heaven is like--four seconds and a splash?" Talking in the Dark
captures 22 lonely yet hopeful years in a life readers will hope will be a long and productive one. Frances BradburnCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved