Title: American Flowers
Author: Michael A. McLellan
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Drama/Thriller
Chris was in the second grade. His mom dropped the bowl of Fruit Loops in front of him splashing milk onto the sun-faded, oak table. “You know, I really wanted a baby,” she said, poking one of her ever-present cigarettes into the corner of her mouth and lighting it with the Bic that she kept in her bathrobe. She drew in smoke, her cheeks sucking in momentarily while she did. Chris thought she looked like a fish whenever she did that. His dad didn’t look like a fish when he smoked. She exhaled; it drifted upward to join the layer of smoke that always seemed to hover just below the ceiling in their house. “And then once I had one,” she continued, “I found that I really didn’t want one after all. But once you have a baby, you’re stuck with it.”
A lump formed in Chris’ throat and it was a real effort for him to swallow his bite of cereal.
“You mean…. me, Mom?” he asked, his voice wavering and tears welling in his eyes. She picked up her vodka tumbler and drained it.
“Of course I mean you. Now go to school.”
American Flowers follows the lives of Chris and Allie as they go from promising, young adults to the couple the media ignorantly begins calling a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. On the run from Chris’ volatile-tempered drug dealer and manipulated by a psychotic ex-convict, Chris and Allie are caught in a dangerous game where there can be no winners.
About the Author
Michael A. McLellan is a self-proclaimed blue-collar writer. His body of work includes the 2014 novel, After and Again, the 2015 novel, American Flowers and the shorts, Joe Price and Anywhere But Here.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Due to its subject matter, language, and sexual situations, it is advised for mature readers 18+.
If you’re looking for a book that makes you feel good with beautiful people, this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a well-written, raw glimpse into life amongst America’s disheartened, you’ll want to read Michael A. McLellan’s “American Flowers”.
Don’t let the title fool you. There’s one question to keep in mind while reading this one: What happens to flowers when they aren’t properly cared for? That’s the tidbit of info you need to keep in the back of your mind when you begin this heavy book.
“American Flowers” was so full of despair. I kept thinking does this situation really exist in our world. The answer is an unfortunate yes. There are people who live like this on a daily basis. It starts out innocently, just like it did for Chris and Allie. Then it escalates to a habit that can’t be shaken, no matter how hard they try.
The next thought I had while reading McLellan’s book was could these characters be any more stupid. Chris won’t become your next book boyfriend unless you are drawn to the dumb ones. He’s not even the town’s bad boy. Chris Shafer is a kid who didn’t come from the wrong side of the tracks. He was smack dab in the middle of the tracks and didn’t know how to extricate himself from the situation. Chris’ best friend pointed it out plain as day—they were all dumb f*cks and weren’t going to amount to anything. To make matters worse, Chris didn’t have any positive role models encouraging him to do otherwise. In such a bleak atmosphere, what else could this kid do but fail.
Allie, the girl he fell in love with, wasn’t in a good situation either. Can you imagine telling someone something terrible and they don’t believe you? It’s bad enough to experience that tragedy, but to have the one person you trust tell you it’s a lie… well, that’s just stretching the walls of sanity. Allie was a good girl, at least she wanted to be. The adults in her life, much like the ones in Chris’, weren’t good. They didn’t have her best interests at heart.
Both Allie and Chris had potential. They were smart kids who could have gone on to school on scholarships. But no one cared about their futures. Remember those flowers?
Every character in this book is guilty of THINKING they were doing the right thing. Chris and Allie believed that what they were doing didn’t have consequences. Allie’s cousin, Lisa, thought she was doing the right thing when she warned Allie about drug use. Problem was the girl wasn’t listening to her own advice. Mick, the supplier, thought he had the perfect setup and could continue to live beyond the reaches of the law. The adults may have started out wanting to do the right thing, but somewhere along the road the wheels fell off the truck. The parents were more irresponsible than their offspring. Chris and Allie crossed paths with an ex-con who thought he could pull off a perfect heist and not get implicated in anyway. The store owner thought he was doing the right thing instead of just cooperating. Even Jan, a woman who aided the couple, thought she had made the right decision. No one thoroughly thought before acting. Makes you wonder if they all drank from the same Kool-aid pitcher.
McLellan’s book contained two distinct messages. The first was a blatant advertisement against drug use. It reminded me of the PSAs about meth use. Poignant. Real. Scary. He did such an excellent job detailing this world. I wondered what level of intimacy he had with the subject matter (Great research, that’s what it was). The second message hits you after the end of the book. You’ll need to close the cover (or turn off the app) and think for a moment. I won’t ruin it for you. Although this book can be categorized as New Adult, it’s one of those that needs to be read by PARENTS too. The second message is for us. It’s one we can’t afford to miss. Correction. It’s one our children can’t afford for US to miss.
The ending of this heart wrenching book kept me from giving a 5-star rating. It sort of left me feeling ‘meh’. I wanted more. I needed to know more about what happened to Allie. Yes, we have imaginations and can figure it out, but after so much hopelessness I needed a definite ray of sunshine.
McLellan’s “American Flowers” is a must-read book. It’s relevant. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s a dose of reality embedded in fiction.
Rating: (5 Hands=Excellent, 4 Hands=Great, and 3 Hands=Good)