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Now Is The Time For Sobbing

A review of Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, in which a Zimbabwean boy turns to his love of soccer to escape the horrors of reality.

Now Is The Time For Sobbing

BOOK REPORT for Now Is the Time For Running by Michael Williams

Cover Story: Almost Shame-Free
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talky: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Boys!, Real Ultraviolence, Immigration Issues
Relationship Status: More Than Just An Issue Friend

Cover Story: Almost Shame-Free

I like this cover! Yes, it features a headless person, but the person isn't so much the focus. There is symbolic barbed wire and the colors echo the feeling of the book - bright spots of color against an arid, desolate backdrop.

HOWEVER. There is also a soccer ball on the cover, and I am an American. I can't be seen with this book in public! They'll try to deport me!

(This reminds me of a conversation we had at FYA Book Club last week - don't ask how we got on the topic - about how one time my family and I were in Mexico and were driving back over the border and the INS agent didn't ask my dad for ID or anything, just who had won the US-Germany soccer game in the World Cup earlier that day. I remember thinking that this was a good way of finding out if someone was an American, because why would we know or care?)

The Deal:

Deo's favorite pasttime is playing soccer with the other kids of his Zimbabwe village. One day, however, his game is interrupted - and his childhood shattered - by soldiers who massacre everyone in the village.

Deo and his older brother Innocent, the only ones left alive, have to set out for the freedom of South Africa. But the violence of their past follows them on their journey, and soon the only thing Deo has to turn to is his trusty soccer ball.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Deo, even though you are at the age where you think girls are sort of funny AND you natter on about soccer endlessly, I still want to give you my BFF charm. You're loyal and tough and you do what is right when you can, and when you can't do what is right, you do what is best. I would love to have you on my side through any of the crazy things life throws at me, even though my life isn't even 1/1000000 as crazy as yours.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This isn't a kissing book, folks. It's a book about brothers and faith and strength and the problems we sadly shake our heads out while sitting on our comfy sofas in our safe homes.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Williams' narrative style is sparse but straight-forward. Deo has been forced into adulthood in ways children never should be, but this doesn't give him an overnight gift of eloquence or subtlety. He makes grown-up bargains in teenager words, and it was really refreshing to read that balance. Too often, protagonists of YA novels sound like adults. Deo never does, even when he's forced to do things most adults would shy away from.

Bonus Factor: Boys!

Hey! A book about a boy! Hallelujah! A book about a boy that's filled with violence that actually seems realistic? (i.e. there are no CYBORGS FROM SPACE who are exterminating boys who reach the age 16.) Well, then it's like fuckin' Christmas!

Bonus Factor: Real Ultraviolence

I would hope by now that Deo's story is actually a fairly familiar one to readers, but one look at internet reviews for this book tells me that's not true. So for the sake of the people who don't read the news, let me sum up: for years and years people have tried to colonize regions of Africa, and to do so, they usually promoted one group of people at the expense of the other. Then the colonizers got tired of Africa and left, and in the aftermath, different groups naturally jockeyed for power. Some of those people were bad. Some were good and then realized how nice being in power was and became bad. And some have never actually been in power but are only figureheads for foreign governments who want oil or diamonds. Rocks fall, everyone dies, and the governments of the West largely pretend the problem doesn't exist while continuing to collect crippling interests on outstanding national debts and keeping vital resources like food and medicine from the people in need. Are you feeling good about yourself yet?

At any rate, Michael Williams does what I cannot, and tells this tale without blame or recriminiation.

Bonus Factor: Immigration Issues

One of the really great things about this book is that Deo doesn't get the happy ending one might expect. In a typical Odyssey tale, the hero makes his or her journey and at the end, he can finally rest. By the time Deo makes it to South Africa, all he gets is a bunch of anti-immigrant prejudice from people who feel they have the right to judge people for being born in another country.

Casting Call:

Look, I have a seven year old. I watch a lot of Disney and Nickelodeon.

Bobb'e J. Thompson as Deo

Plus, Tracey Jr is my favorite.

Relationship Status: More Than Just An Issue Friend

(Yeah, I stole Megan's status from yesterday. It made sense, cause this book is about issues, but it isn't an Issue Book.)

Book, when I saw you from across the crowded cafeteria, I was immediately intrigued. You looked out of place amongst the glittering and polished girls and the moody stoners I usually hung out with. You were new in school, all the way from another country, and I thought you probably had a good story to tell.

And tell it you did. And even though your story is a sad one, and you won't shut the fuck up about soccer, you never looked for pity. You made me feel hopeful about both of our futures and had me calling up my representative in Congress to question him on his commitment to your family.

Of course, I live in Texas's 22nd, so the answer I got was "I'm committed to lowering taxes for the rich."

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy for free from Little, Brown. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Now is the Time for Running is available now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.