And then I met Elvis…

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Tim’s life sucks. At 13, he’s saddled with a mother who prefers booze and abuse to actual parenting. He’s periodically shuffled into new school systems whenever she bottoms out. The trailer park he now calls home is embarrassing. And the first three people he meets at his new school are bullying douchebags.

Summer isn’t looking much better for young Tim, given his mother’s domineering new boyfriend. Thankfully, there are two bright spots this summer for Tim. One is the beautiful older woman across the way who knows her music and relies on Tim for babysitting duties. The other is the kid who just moved into the trailer park and reminds him of Elvis. Throughout the summer, Tim learns a lot from both, slowly figuring out who he wants to be. He makes mistakes along the way, of course, but he also learns valuable lessons that will serve him for a lifetime. All thanks to Elvis, an unattainable woman, and a trailer park.

And Then I Met Elvis… starts off unassumingly. In fact, the opening thirty pages or so are downright unpleasant, really hammering home how miserable and terrible the protagonist’s life is. But if you power through those thirty pages —- and you should — it transforms into a worthwhile journey toward adulthood.

What separates this novel from many coming-of-age tales is that it is utterly effortless in how relatable it manages to be. Being bullied in school. Discovering those songs that speak to you. Taking that first step of self-discovery and rebellion by doing something you think is incredibly cool and other people find completely peculiar. Having that unrequited crush on someone older and more sophisticated that both gives you hope and dashes your spirits from time to time. Those moments speak to the reader on a deep emotional level, bypassing superficial cliches and connecting on a harmonic frequency you might’ve forgotten about (or repressed or simply put aside to process later). Bari makes those moments feel natural and easy. That is far harder, and far more rare, than you might think. Even the big story moments that you know have to come full circle — confronting the bully, for instance — don’t play out like you’d expect. Instead, the scene is both funnier AND more satisfying because of its little quirks and unlikelihoods.

We all have those friendships and relationships that change us irrevocably when we’re young, and yet they never seem to survive into adulthood. Instead, they are these islands in your past, brief maelstroms of insight and love and humor and struggle that become milestones. And Then I Met Elvis… captures that energy, that singular strangeness, beautifully.

Reviewed By:

Author Douglas Bari
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher Amazon
Publish Date 2018-05-28
ISBN 9781985693456 Buy this Book
Issue August 2019
Category Historical Fiction


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