The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Summer is the season that Caleb, 10, and his older brother, Bobby Gene, 11, meet Styx Malone. Styx is 16 and to Caleb, Styx is everything: cool and worldly and smart, clever and smooth and independent.
Summer at age 10 and 11: when life is both simple and oh-so-complicated. Caleb and Bobby Gene get into enough trouble on their own, and not necessarily on purpose. They didn't mean to trade their baby sister for a bag of fireworks, but somehow it happened, and who can say no to fireworks?
Styx introduces them to the concept of the escalator trade: a series of trades that slowly escalates the value that you hold, so that you start with a paper clip and end with a house. Or, for Caleb, Bobby Gene, and Styx, you start with fireworks and end with -- well, I'll let you find out.
Styx's bravado results in the boys having a magical summer of adventure, but there are some serious things going on. Things that the reader may realize before Caleb does.
Styx, like Caleb and Bobby Gene, is a black kid in Indiana. Caleb and Bobby Gene's father is protective of his sons -- worrying about what will happen in the world outside their small town -- to the point where he doesn't even want his sons to leave for a school trip. He wants them safe and the boys -- well, at least Caleb -- longs for the world outside his small town. Styx represents that world, and Caleb doesn't realize that Styx, a foster child, is not so much independent as a child alone. Caleb doesn't see what he has that Styx does not.
This is a great story -- a story of a summer full of swimming holes and fishing and bike rides. A story of friendship and family and trust. A story of a boy taking the steps to being a man. (In some ways -- and to me this is a great compliment -- this reminded of Stephen King, and how he writes about that time in childhood, a time of innocence and knowledge and darkness and light. But, of course, there are no monsters here.)
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