Aging Out by L. Lee Shaw
Teenagers Adam, Soosie, and Myron have found themselves thrown together at Pittison House, a government-run youth home whose inhabitants jeeringly call it “the Pitt.” Adam has been there the longest, thrown out of his own home by a mother and a grandmother who could not have cared less about his existence. Myron, Adam’s roommate, is facing family issues of a different sort: he is the son of the biggest crime family in town. Soosie ends up at the Pitt after beating up her older sister, though no one is quite certain what drove her to do it. Though all friendless, the teens find it impossible to connect with one another, their difficult pasts and family trauma throwing up obstacles against genuine friendship. Now, however, they are approaching their eighteenth birthday, which means they will “age out” and be evicted from Pittison House. The teens are given positions at a local long-term care home for the elderly called Soda Spring Care Center, and it is here that they learn more about each other – and about a disgraced journalist named Adah Skelton who has been sniffing around the place and apparently has a vendetta against its inhabitants.
Aging Out is a heady reminder of the value that close family and good friends contribute to our lives. At the novel’s start, one wonders just how far these characters will be able to take themselves, as they all are so deeply damaged by darkness from their pasts that it prevents them from being able to see the happiness in other people. What makes this story so enjoyable, then, is watching its characters work through this pain, while allowing space to acknowledge how our upbringing shapes our lives irreversibly, whether for good or for bad. Though some of the characterization in Aging Out is abrupt – especially in the case of Soosie, whose cold aggression thaws a little too quickly to be entirely believable – this is the type of novel that demonstrates how small stages can tackle big themes, and how stories do not have to be expansive to be powerful.
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