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Leaving Atlanta Paperback – August 1, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446690899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446690898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones wonderful debut novel, brings to life one of the most terrible periods in Atlanta's history, the time when a serial killer was snatching and murdering children at the rate of one a month. While much has been written and said about the hunt for the killer, his probable motives, the impact on the city's image, this book takes a completely different approach by taking us back to that time through the eyes of the children who lived through it. Their fear, their vulnerability and their absolute "kidness" even in the face of the horror all around them come through clearly in Jones' book. Without sensationalizing the story in any way, she makes you feel the children's fear of a new crossing guard, even if he is an emissary from the guardian angels, come south to protect them. Jones' has a gift for the dialogue of her youthful characters and never strikes a false note when they talk to each other or to the adults scrambling to protect them. A pleasure to read and a unique perspective on those terrible times that still haunt all of us who could not find a way to protect our children from a danger we will never understand.
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Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta is a must-read novel that exudes with honesty, compassion, and literary beauty. Told in alternate voices from school-aged kids who give their account of the time period during the Atlanta child disappearances, the story treads through the familiar: moms who lie, fathers who try to protect and secure their family, kids who belittle each other one day, and kids who befriend each other when they have nobody else to talk to. Tayari Jones is a talented writer who employs simple yet profound prose to tell her story. Leaving Atlanta is a wonderful accomplishment, a novel that speaks to the heart and mind of kids and grown-ups alike.
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By A Customer on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I lived in Atlanta during the time of the real-life Atlanta Child Murders. I was the father of a son and daughter who were about the age of the children who are the main characters in this novel. At that time, all I could think about was keeping them safe. I never wondered what they were thinking during this time until I read this arresting new novel.
LEAVING ATLANTA gives voice to the thoughts of a generation. I felt like I was reliving this time, but this time, I had a better understanding of my children. This is a must read for any and all parents.
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Format: Hardcover
Leaving Atlanta is an absolutely awesome reading experience. Who can forget the child abductions and murders in Atlanta in 1979? It was a fearful and trying time for all, but for the children, who lived in Atlanta, it had to be one of the most frightening things they experienced. The author Tayari Jones does an excellent job of getting into the minds and thoughts of the children as they try to process what was happening to these children, and more so when the victim was someone they knew.
For the children in this book, Tasha, Rodney and Octavia, being in the fifth grade is hard. They surely had enough on their minds just with trying to fit in, make friends, puberty, and pleasing their parents. All the parents are talking about the child murders and trying to figure out how to keep their children safe.
Each child story is unique, each living environment different, but with each child there is that vulnerability which made you just want to wrap your arms around them and shelter them from all that was bad. This moving novel is one that I will be highly recommending. I will be on the lookout for future books by this author.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In reading yet another captivating book by Tayari Jones I must say that these were two very real and thoughtful stories that grabbed my mind and heart. I am white and it was so interesting to see the VERY SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCES in how we look at life..Rich or poor..Black or white...These kids in this story were about the same age as the kids my daughter teaches. Her students are mostly in the projects with VERY few "fancy kids with money".. She and I had a good dialog about her class and the feelings of free or reduced lunch, and were they comparing themselves to others as in the book. TO KNOW THAT THIS WAS BASED on REAL life events just broke my heart as I got to know the characters in the story....Diffinately worth your time to read and absorb this first and awesome first novel for Me Jones... Ready to read the next one...It was over before I was ready for it to be!!!!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones I did find some of the characters easy to relate to from that particular era because I was around the same age that this story was told. So that wasn't really the issue with me. What didn't work for me was that the book was told in segments that focused on one particular household; their family life; and how the murders affected them. So it was almost like you were reading a series of novella's that required you to start all over with getting the back story about the family and then seeing where it lead to. I think the book would have been better if it were written as a continuous novel where the reader would have learned about each of the families from the beginning to the end where the story could have unfolded better. About half of the dialog really wasn't beneficial to the story line at all for me. If you understood the make up of Black families back then the scenes that were described made sense but you really didn't get a sense of where the story was going with most of the families. The story about Rodney's family is told in second person and it really didn't flow well with the other segments to me. I also didn't feel like I received a full story because you never really learned how the aftermath of these disappearances and murders affect all of the characters in the book at the very end.

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.
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