Late Lights by Kara Weiss

Title: Late Lights
Author: Kara Weiss

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Boston / Young Adults / Juvenile Crime / Coming-of-Age / Gender Identity / Male - Female Friendships / Sex)
Publisher/Publication Date: Colony Collapse Press (2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, in one night.
One-sentence summary: Five interconnected stories of three young adults from Boston, struggling with identity, belonging, growing up, and making their way.

Do I like the cover?: It's great -- captures the gritty, urban feel of the stories (it reminds me of the opening titles to a crime tv show).

First line: Tonight, the halls are silent.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like gritty realism and fiction with young adults that isn't about insta-love and dystopias.

Why did I get this book?: I love books set in Boston.

Review: This slim volume of five interconnected vignettes offers a portrait of Boston teens that is heartbreaking, disturbing, and impossible to ignore.

Weiss' stories follow three friends -- Monty, who opens the volume with his stay at a juvenile detention center; followed by B.J., a young woman struggling with her body's change and the implications of it; and Erin, who escaped to boarding school but yearns for the easy friendship she used to have with Monty and B.J.

As I started, I was apprehensive these stories would be horrible for horror's sake; that Weiss would pull out every stereotype to offer shorthand to mood. Instead, I found her characters to be real, complicated teenagers, who stumble and trip over their emotions, their relationships. My heart broke over and over again as Monty, B.J., and Erin collided, moved by their past friendship but unsure now that adolescence and adult experiences push them past childhood, each nursing real hurts and injuries, physical and emotional.

While there's an urban feel to the stories, they aren't particularly 'Boston' in feel, which is fine. Place in this case isn't what shapes these teenagers and their lives. It's the adult who've failed them, the hard lessons learned against their will, the mistakes they keep making.

Weiss' writing style is brisk but evocative; her description of life in a juvenile detention center made my skin crawl and my stomach heave. Without spelling things out, she evokes the tension and drama of teenage desire and fear as well as the heavy weight of what is unsaid. There's only 120 pages or so to this book but the stories have heft and weight.

I was reminded a bit of Skins, the British show about teenagers -- both make me so uncomfortable having to acknowledge the realities so many teens face! Those who enjoy stories about young adults that aren't all insta-love and dystopias will enjoy this volume.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Late Lights to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 8/9.


  1. Sounds interesting, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I've seen this book around but didn't know much about it.

    1. It's good -- not light, of course, but a quick read, in a way. Certainly impossible to look away from!

  2. I like gritty realism and interconnected stories so this sounds right up my alley.

    1. It's very well done -- deceptive -- seems impossible that something this skinny could be so powerful -- but I was open-mouthed a few times!

  3. I love that photograph on the cover, and it sounds fitting based on the content. This one SO doesn't seem like your typical fare, but I'm glad it was a good read.

    1. I know! The Boston connection lured me in, but I stayed because it was impossible to put down!

  4. Hmmm. I get so much teen-aged angst in my own house, I don't know if I can handle anymore on the page! Still, great review -- it might be something my daughter would like :)

    1. Col, you almost made me fall out of my chair laughing!! I can appreciate that -- and there's a good deal of angst here as Weiss puts us into the heads of the characters. It's messy but I don't mind because I don't live with it! ;)

  5. I am all for gritty realism. I adore the cover. When you mentioned the interconnected stories I immediately thought of True Notebooks by Mark Salzman. It's about his year working with kids from Juvenile hall. It was mesmerizing and gritty and just wonderful. Have you read it?

  6. this actually sounds pretty great! i don't know that i've read this kind of book but it sounds like my life in my 20s!

  7. I thought my teenage years were SO difficult, but the older I get the more I realize that I had it REALLY easy. Sounds like this story would really get under my skin, in an important way.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  8. I agree that there is a heft/weight to this that is almost surprising considering how short it is. Great review. By the way, love the format of your reviews!


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