- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Warner Books (August 21, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446528307
- ISBN-13: 978-0446528306
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Leaving Atlanta Hardcover – August 21, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Based on the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1980, this wrenching debut novel is told from the perspective of three Atlanta fifth-graders living in the midst of the crisis. Tasha is a sweet, conflicted middle-class girl navigating the harsh social waters of her school. Rodney, "the weirdest boy in class," is an unpopular kid who feels both pushed and ignored by his perfectionist parents. Octavia is a whip-smart, confident social outcast who carefully notes that she lives "across the street" from the projects. Jones, who was a child herself in Atlanta in the late '70s and early '80s, weaves her tale with consummate ease, shifting from third to second to first person as she switches narrators. The details of the children's everyday life playground fights, school cafeteria breakfasts, candy store visits are convincingly presented and provide an emotional context for the murders. When classmates begin disappearing, we know that they, along with their peers, are not one-dimensional innocents. One night when Octavia sneaks a late-night look at the local news, she sees a now-missing classmate flash on the screen. "In the picture he looked like a regular boy from our class. He was by himself so you couldn't tell that he was shorter than most of them and just nicer and smarter than all of them put together. Kodak commercials say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one they showed of Rodney ain't worth more than three or four. Boy. Black. Dead." This strongly grounded tale hums with the rhythms of schoolyard life and proves Jones to be a powerful storyteller.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Narrated in succession by three extremely perceptive (though at times almost too precocious) fifth graders, this first novel engagingly conveys the paranoia and fear that dominated the African American community in Atlanta during the 1979 child murders, a time when almost two dozen black children were abducted and murdered, their corpses abandoned in the countryside. While the ending of the final section seems too pat (and this reviewer also wishes that the book had a better title), Jones is still able to capture what it feels like to be ten-that fascinating interstitial moment when one can be simultaneously torn between being savvy enough to know that all is not right with the world and devastated at not being invited to a popular classmate's sleepover. Jones is particularly good at portraying the day-to-day lives of these children-their often difficult home lives and their mundane but fascinating school experiences-although, as in many novels narrated by children, the adults don't come off very well. In style, tone, and approach, Jones's novel is reminiscent of another excellent realistic novel of African American social life, Thuliani Davis's 1959. For most public libraries, especially those with large African American collections.
Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., WA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Tayari Jones has chosen a weighty and difficult topic for her first novel. And while there are things I found a bit off-as another reviewer points out the children are simply to precocious and too aware to be fifth graders… In spite of this the book remains absorbing and the characters aching sympathetic. Jones has a real feel for the social hierarchy of schools where the table where someone is invited to sit in a lunchroom tells you so much about their popularity of lack thereof. She also grounds the narrative in the day to day rhythms of life-what the kids eat for lunch, the trips to corner stores, the walks to and from school. Thus when the violence creeps in it becomes all the more shocking because the characters were simply following daily patterns at a time when the routines fell apart amid violence and death. I also liked the way she depicted the kids’ growing recognition of the fragility of their parents’ assurances and protection amidst a utterly changed environment.
My only real complaint is I feel the book ended a tad abruptly. I would like to have seen at least an epilogue showing what happened. Perhaps though that was Jones’ point... The missing and murdered case simply upended these kids’ lives and defied easy answers. Maybe Leaving Atlanta suggests life just won’t ever be the same again. I won’t soon forget these three kids and will eagerly read Tayari Jones future work.
I think some people may enjoy this book. But for me, I felt that the book didn't really get as deep as it could have because it was written in segments instead of a continuous story. Because the book focused mainly on the children that were affected by their classmates disappearances and murders and was written from their point of view, I'm wondering if this book would have been better served in the Young Adult section.
I think Leaving Atlanta was just an okay read. I would give another one of Ms. Jones' books a try. I think that some readers may actually like the book and should read it if the synopsis appeals to them.
I enjoyed the different characters that the author introduced in the story....her description of how children play together, poverty at that time, peer pressure, and just her dynamic use of narration, made this book an awesome read. You will find many high and low points of the book, but they are all understandable even if you are not from an urban setting. The author was on point with her setting and describing the key things that were popular during that time. I hope that others who do not remember many of these things (much younger audience), find the book as interesting and riveting as I did. I am looking at other works by this author.