“There was a time in my life when I woke every morning with fear and anxiety and didn’t know why. For me, fear was a given I factored into the events of the day, like a pebble that never leaves your shoe. In retrospect, an adult might call that a form of courage. If so, it wasn’t much fun.”
These are the opening lines of James Lee Burke’s novel, the second in the Holland Family Series (The first was Wayfaring Stranger, set in and just after WWII). The Jealous Kind was published in 2016. It is a great read, a bit gritty and graphic at times (Someone is always getting beat up or worse, often caused by nothing more than teen angst, miscommunication, or deliberate misunderstanding, just for the hell of it.) but worth investing your reading time in.
We’ve got the good guys, Aaron and Valerie (and sometimes Saber, Aaron’s best friend) pitted against the bad guys; Grant, well-to-do, but not living up to his father’s expectations and psychopathic Vince, son of the Mafia-connected Atlas family.
Don’t think for a moment this is a Young Adult novel, for the parents and all their problems and prejudices which formed them as they lived through in the war years from the previous novel are present and are “visited upon” the next generation.
As main characters, and the Romeo and Juliet of this novel, Aaron and Valerie are well drawn as they try to figure out the complexities of life in the fifties. Saber is at the same time the most likable and most frustrating character Burke develops, and Aaron’s loyalty to him borders on heroic.
To keep the twists and turns coming, Aaron’s Uncle (on his father’s side) has his own mob contacts which gives Aaron some leverage against Vince and his family. Aaron’s father, befuddled but totally immersed in true integrity, always does and encourages Aaron to ” do the right thing.” He still believes good will win over evil, but there are times when Aaron has his doubts about that. The relationships between the teenagers and their respective parents is well-drawn, believable, and explores the love hate relationship between children and parents. The cops, who represent the Law of the fifties are well-drawn as well. There are the clean cops, who might not always have been clean, but want to make up for it now, and the dirty cops who will never want to be clean–all make appearances. Learning who to trust and who is untrustworthy is a lesson Aaron has to learn. Fortunately,like his dad, he has a shrewd ability to judge a man’s character.
All of this is accompanied by plot twists and turns, and kept this reader turning the pages, leaving her waiting for the next book in Burke’s planned trilogy.