“The Lost Boys”: I review Jodi Angel’s “You Only Get Letters from Jail”

at the Weekly Standard:

The words “have” and “get” pulse insistently through Jodi Angel’s new short story collection. What you have to do, what you get to do, what you get away with; getting in trouble, getting used to it. Sometimes Angel even doubles up on these words: “My stomach clenched a little and I got ready to get in trouble.” That tensed, hurting readiness is one of the collection’s central moods. The other is a post-traumatic numbness which can sometimes become sentimentalized and is sometimes sociopathic.

All of Angel’s protagonists are teenage boys, living in a no-lifeguard-on-duty 1970s or ’80s hinterland of broken or unreliable families and bad-company friends. Before each story opens, something bad has already happened to these kids—often the death of one or both parents. The boys’ narrative voices always sound a little shocked, as if they’re still sorting through how to live in this new world into which they’ve been thrust.

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