Book Review – Pen, Please

by George Mayes

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1 Blogger Review

Dale E. Lehman 
BookGobbler Author


Reviewed by Dale E. Lehman

An Intense Coming-of-age Novel With a Solid and Engaging Story

“Pen, Please” is an intense coming-of-age novel set in Oklahoma. We meet protagonist Andre Young at age sixteen when he returns home from a summer leadership program in Texas only to find his father hospitalized with a blood clot in his lung. The first of many trials Andre faces in the novel, it’s far from the first in his life. Through flashbacks and present-day narrative, this young black man’s journey is exposed as a chronicle of heartbreak, tragedy, and headlong rushes down blind alleys, some imposed upon him and some of his own making.

Andre is fundamentally a decent guy struggling to make sense out of a life in which every joy is followed by a dozen sorrows. But he’s also headstrong and easily tempted to take the easy way out. His troubled relationship with his father and his distance from his absent mother haunt him throughout life. He can’t sort out his relationship with women, nor can he hang onto a job in spite of being an excellent worker. He even briefly descends into selling drugs. But through it all, he valiantly struggles towards something for which he has no good role models: how to be a man.

This is a first novel by an indie writer, and as often happens in such cases, I have to give two verdicts. One the one hand, I think the story itself is solid and engaging, while the key characters are drawn well and generally intriguing. On the other, the writing isn’t what you would get in a novel released through a mainstream publisher. Author George Mayes has potential. He can sometimes turn a good phrase, and one or two particular witticisms made me laugh. But the narrative passages read like he’s trying too hard, and the dialogue could use considerable work. Also, somewhere about mid-story the novel seemed to become a rush of scenes separated by time gaps of indeterminate length. This may be me–I admit to being easily confused–but by the end of the novel I really had no idea how old Andre was anymore, and I got lost in the sea of friends and coworkers surrounding him. There are scenes I wish Mayes had shown us instead of just alluding to as past events. I would guess this novel could easily have been twice as long. It’s that rich in content.

However, I can’t fault Mayes for these shortcomings, precisely because this is a first novel by an indie writer. Nearly all writers start out this way, and in today’s world a great many publish their first efforts. Rather, I hope he takes this as encouragement to develop his craft, because I think there is a really good storyteller in there struggling to get out. I think the story itself is at least a 4 if not a 5, but overall I’m going to have to go with a 3.

The Reviewer is the Author of “The Fibonacci Murders” and “True Death”