Life in the Atmosphere
by Anthony Wilson
Genre: YA, Coming of Age
Jahlil Adams is just a regular teenager. In fact, you could say that he is “super regular” with his glasses, comic books, and cheap fashion sense. He doesn’t want popularity. He doesn’t want a pretty girlfriend. He wants to just be who he is. Well that and not to be bullied by Max Maniac. Yet, everything changes once Mr. Malachi gave Jahlil a necklace that he didn’t even want. After that, everything was not the same. In fact, Jahlil began to realize that there was much more to who he was. There was much more to who Mr. Malachi was. There was much more to his existence. The lid of limitations was lifted from Jahlil’s life. Now, all that mattered was the limitations that the sky had to offer.
And easier than expected, the room hushed and we were reading. As I read, the time progressed from one point to another. By the time I got into the story well enough,
the bell rang and time shifted for my next class. I gathered my things and scurried along to the next class.
"Hey, Jahlil! Wait up!" Trisha yelled as she tried to catch up with me. I stopped in the middle of my tracks so I could listen to what she had to say.
"Yo. I'm sorry for what I did earlier. You forgive me?" I noted before she could say anything to me.
"Yeah. But, what is wrong?" she inquires. The look in her eyes said I could trust her with all of my heart. I don't know what this girl possessed that drove me crazy. It felt like everything seemed more worthwhile. Life with her around became great. Maybe the attraction blinded me. Maybe her kindness influenced my opinion. Or her spirit. I don't
know. But whatever it could have been, I felt good around her. I felt right.
"Max. He is always taking my lunch money," I noted to her with a look of pity and seriousness.
"You should tell someone."
"I don't know if telling would be a good idea," I noted, feeling nervous thinking about the pummeling I would get if I squealed on Max. I know I would get my butt handed to me on a silver platter if I told. And I am referring to a silver platter with garnish and vegetables.
"No. Either you go or I will go," Trisha said.
"Okay. But you are going with me," I said with plenty of stern seriousness.
Let's think here, people: this moment scared me!
"Alright. I'll go with you."
So, we went and told the principal. As I told my story to Mr. Baldwin about how I had been harassed, I could see the concern over his face. Once it happened, he excused
me from the office and had Max called down. During the time, I walked out and saw Trisha at the front.
"Let's hurry up and get outta here," I said with an uneasy feeling I could not explain. As we both walked out, my favorite weirdo (Mr. Malachi) stopped me in my tracks. Not this again. I started to believe I became a magnet for madness.
"Hey, Young Blood! Come here real quick," he said as he walked around with a mop bucket coming out of the bathroom. As I cautiously walked toward him, he reached
out his right fist. In his hand resided a crucifix on a beaded chain. Nothing fancy. Some regular silver jewelry. "I think you are gonna need this. You got some trouble with Max, I hear?"
Insurmountably stunned, I almost shouted "How you know about any of it?"
"Look, Young Blood. Don't worry about your situation, man. You need to wear this cross around your neck at all times. It's for protection. Whenever you need extra help, rub on this cross."
Yeah, okay. Now I know he is a child molester, a sideline reverend, or a substance abuse addict. Whatever it may have been, I stood dumbfounded he knew my business.
No one sat in the office but me, Trisha, and the principal. We had left the principal. So, I highly doubt he told either. This situation becoming very, very strange.
Still, any type of help would not be turned away. So, I took the necklace (like a dummy) and put it on. But if Mr. Malachi tried to touch me, I had to report him.
Anthony Wilson is a new author that hails from the Midwest. Being that this is his first book, he took the extra care of creating a 1st person perspective from the realities of teenage living in the year 2000. Being that Anthony Wilson is an educator, he wanted to create stories that students in middle (and even high) school could relate to. Also, he wanted to create stories that his teenage daughter would be proud of. When he isn't being a husband, teaching, or writing, Anthony Wilson also maintains his health through physical activity.
Another book I could not finish.
There are few books that sit to the side for a less likely time that I might return to it for another chance read. That was the unfortunate conclusion I came to from Life In the Atmosphere.
I was several pages into the story before I learned the main character's name is Jahlil. The reader has been introduced to a teacher, a janitor, a bully, a girl, and the class clown before the main character's name is revealed. For me that was too many characters.
Things happen at the beginning of the story but there is no supporting narrative for the events. Why does Jahlil's mother trust the school's janitor? The story lacked in foreshadowing needed to set up the scenes.
Personality and Word Choice Conflict
A student who uses words like "subjugate" should have a more well-utilized vocabulary. Jahlil's vernacular fluctuates between that of a teen with a smart mouth and one with a larger vocabulary.
In the first three chapters, three influential names are dropped by the young characters. This made me question the setting of the story and who is the book's intended audienc. Few young adults will know who Lou Ferrigno is (the Hulk). Researching names in stories are fine, but if it happens too often and too early in the story, with no real addition to the remaining story, then it breaks the reading pace. That pacing can be hard to get back once broken.
Inconsistency in narrative
Does Jahlil have a friend or not at the start of the story? We are led to believe he does not have any friends, yet he is close to Trish instantly and the Khadeijah is added to the duo as if she was always a friend. Does Jahlil like the janitor or is he creeped out by him? Jahlil opens up to the questionable character only a few sentences after describing him as a possible pedophile. Not understanding Jahlil's relationship to other characters makes the story inconsistent.
I did not award an open book score to Life in the Atmosphere. I did not complete enough of the book to judge it fairly. Maybe these questions are resolved in later parts of the 175-page book, or maybe not. The story did not hold my attention long enough for me to find out.
An e-book as a gift.
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