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America (2001)

by E. R. Frank

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2751371,933 (3.7)4
Teenage America, a not-black, not-white, not-anything boy who has spent many years in institutions for disturbed, antisocial behavior, tries to piece his life together.
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I picked this up as a book to take to read in the dining hall. A couple hours later, back in my apartment, I finished it. No deep reflections on it — it was different, and interesting.
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
Life is hard, there's no denying it. Being alive is probably one of the most rewarding, and painful things on this earth. Struggling to be someone important, whether it to someone, or even to be important to themselves. America is a deep, amazing book with an unapologetic view of this world full of hate, pain, and sadness, as we cling to the short lives we have the pleasure of having.

The premise of this book is hard to explain. Its true plot is never said flat out, but instead subtly told to the reader as you explore the memories of a young boy named America, who thinks he isn't worth finding. Its good, but it starts off slow, so you must have patience while reading. America, is a young adult, who is lost in the world, and doesn't believe he is good enough to be found anymore, as throughout his life he has been struggling to find his place in the world. Its no surprise that this book is mature, as seen from my previous reviews. There are swears, violence, and sexual abuse, so this book is not for the weak of heart. True, its not very gruesome or gory, but the foul language and subtle references tend to stand out if you are paying attention. And while we traverse throughout his terrible sad life, we see the true natures of humans, as we are amazing beings, and this world is not as wonderful and peaceful. Its just there, trying to be the best that it can for us, which makes it so damn beautiful, and sad.

America is a heartfelt story that teaches the readers in a magnificent way the natures of despicable humans, and how one boy can have such a disoriented life. America is defiantly a must read, and has very few who are willing to go the path that it does. We're all lost, but that's OK, because its OK to be lost, and to cry, and to feel sad, and not have reasons.
  br14kabu | Jan 29, 2014 |
We meet America when he is seven years old, abandoned by his addict mother, the youngest of six. He is in a mental facility and meets with a psychiatrist. Told from his point of view, we see and feel how he feels, angry and very frustrated. We follow him as he is taken in by a foster mother, taken back by his mother, abandoned by her again, returned to the foster mother, abused, and eventually he murders his abuser and injures his foster mother as a result.

His psychiatrist shows the greatest patience with him and amazingly makes progress. The language of the book matures with America and becomes less raw and more sharing as he eventually is able to share his feelings and trust people again. ( )
  mamzel | Oct 3, 2012 |
America starts off as a book about a 15 year old boy who is in some sort of mental home. He is what you might typically picture when you picture the "bad boy" that has depression and tried to kill himself. He's stubborn, he curses all the time, and he refuses to talk to his therapist. He even occasionally throws chairs or other things.

However, the novel alternates between the present time, and America in the mental hospital, and the past. We learn that America was a crack baby, and grew up with a foster parent until he was in Kindergarten. He ten goes to visit his mother, who promptly abandons him to his older brothers (around ages 7 and 9). The three boys live on their own for 2 years. We continue to learn about America's past, and all of the horrible things he endured. In many ways we become sympathetic.

Although I kept wanting to read and find out more, I was also very disturbed while I was reading. I feel like you expect the story to go one way: you think that there’s the bad side, which is his mother, the drug addict, and two older brothers who have been living on their own for years from the age of 7, and then there’s the good side, which is sweet Mrs. Harper who takes good care of him. However, the “good side” isn’t all that good. Browning, Mrs. Harper’s half brother, really turns out to be a terrible person. He not only allows this 7 year old to drink alcohol, he also makes him read dirty magazines. What’s worse is that Browning also starts sexually abusing him. Turns out that living at Mrs. Harper’s isn’t so much better than living with his mother.

It really got me thinking about how important it is to raise children the right way. Of course you can’t always be perfect, but having a positive influence is so essential. The sad thing is, there are children who don’t have this positive influence. You can really see how America is learning the wrong things about life. Sometimes it seemed like he didn’t do what was right because he didn’t know any better, or people told him that it was wrong. For instance, when Browning told him not to bother Mrs. Harper, he was too young to realize that he really should go and talk to her. In many ways, I found myself blaming Mrs. Harper. Maybe that’s horrible to say, but if she was that old, and in that poor medical condition, she probably shouldn’t have been adopting a young boy. Aside from that, she should never have entrusted him to Browning. She may not have known that he was sexually abusive, but she certainly did know that he was an alcoholic and chain smoker. I’m not sure why she thought it was okay to leave America in his hands, instead of trying to find someone that could truly take care of him.

This book allowed me to see things from a point of view I might not normally see from. While it was disturbing, it was also interesting and at least a little bit hopeful at the end. ( )
  beckykolacki | May 13, 2011 |
After two months of listserv posts on what material is or is not appropriate for an age group, I’m wondering what these people worked up over “crap” and “geez” in Luv Ya Bunches thought of America when it was published in 2002. As a social worker and psychotherapist, Frank has the perfect understanding of the typical wrecked teen/adult mentor interaction. And while I can understand people’s concerns with having teens read the kind of language America uses, I think teens would know that it was being softened by a kind of censorship and perhaps not read the novel. I simply don’t know how else Frank could have created America without curses.

America is lost and angry and scared and confused. You read his thoughts and perspective on others in his language and at his pace. Because Frank breaks up the writing into small detailed memories or asides, it’s a great book for more reluctant readers who need to pace themselves. It also allows the reader to pay attention to America’s memories and points of view - they don’t get lost in lengthy prose, echoing America’s own fear at being forgotten amid the chaos.

Since America is writing the story, you aren’t angry at this bad boy and his obscenities because you get to hear where they are coming from. You must reflect on who he actually is and how he got to be the personality that’s shouting at you or hitting you or walking out the door on you. It’s carefully done so that regular teens (those non-violent and not lost in the social services system) can relate to America’s feelings yet the character remains independent. And if America can survive growing up, we all can. ( )
  librarianshannon | Mar 3, 2011 |
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You have to watch what you say here because everything you say means something and somebody's always telling you what you mean.
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Teenage America, a not-black, not-white, not-anything boy who has spent many years in institutions for disturbed, antisocial behavior, tries to piece his life together.

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