I received One Night by Deanna Cabinian from the author. At first a bit reluctant to read something described as a “coming of age” novel, I am glad I did. I have a category I like to call a “comfort read.” Nothing in it should give offense to anyone (IMHO). It borders on fantasy in that the characters are almost too perfect and, in several cases, too mature in behavior and opinion for their chronological age. In the first few pages, I worried the story would spiral down into sappy, syrupy, sentimental storytelling in a nostalgic search for an imagined perfect past. That did not happen. The tightly controlled crisp writing moved the story along at almost page-turner speed. There are nicely woven reflections on quality of life, the inevitability of death, different perceptions of love (requited and unrequited) and the values of a strong family life. What could have been sappy was rescued by the writers skill into something really good. On an Amazon scale, I gave this a five-star rating, something I have never done with a “comfort read.” I highly recommend this for the YA crowd and will nag my son until he reads at least parts of it.
The improbably named protagonist Thompson Lake is a seventeen-year-old living with his parents and working at Super Kmart. His life is a dull hum as he almost enjoys the massive depression that has resulted from being dumped by CW. Best friend Ronnie and Hunter have agreed that Caroline Wells could be more easily forgotten if depersonalized into CW. It is not working and much of the story will detail different things Thompson tries. Early in the novel, we are introduced to Johnny Lee Young, an Elvis impersonator. Despite a difference in age, Johnny and Thompson will become close friends, more so after Johnny takes on a part time intern job as Johnny’s assistant and sometimes agent. In their close relationship, Thompson finds out that Johnny also has a love he has never gotten over. Thompson agonizes over his love because CW is sleeping around. Johnny admits that he has never gotten over his love, Molly, although he had come to terms with it until the new friend and assistant Thompson reveals information that Molly is about to be married. Angst returns to Johnny (Elvis). This kind of situation calls for a road trip from Hawaii to Chicago to see if a change in situation is possible.
There is a nice crew of characters who bring the story to life. Otherwise, we would have lots of reflection and introspection by Thompson. That would be dull and this story is not dull. Ronnie, Thompson’s best friend, tries to be super cool at all times. Calling Thompson cute names like T-dawg and T-cup, Ronnie also offers up sage advice on breakups and how to get over them. Interesting, in that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Greta, a coworker at Super Kmart, is falling hard for Thompson but he either doesn’t know it or pretends not to know. Thompson’s mom and dad are unbelievably great parents, both controlling (they state that) and tolerant, a realistic portrayal in this novel. Johnny reveals to Thompson that an inspiration for his singing comes in part from ex-girlfriend Jennifer. Where is Jennifer these days? And then there is Nonna.
Nonna is Johnny’s grandmother. She lives in a nursing home, enjoys Johnny’s frequent visits and occasional performances, and in her youth attended a performance by Elvis. (Not a spoiler) she dies. Her portrayal of life, her death, the narration of her funeral ceremony along with how her death affected Thompson and Johnny were very evocative emotionally.
At 307 Kindle pages, this is still a very quick read due to the push that the writing style gives the reader. You won’t want to put this one down until the end. I highly recommend this one for the YA and SCR (Senior Citizen Reader) crowd. Also everyone in between. Although I got the book free from the author, it is available “free” to KU subscribers. I downloaded it there after I read the novel. For something this good, I wanted to help stats with a verified purchase.