Story in a Nutshell:
Annie is an orphan in the Bronx who lives in a slum with people who’ve essentially reached the end of the line in life (which is curiously where Annie is starting hers). She dreams of things any girl would want, but Annie is in such a hopeless situation that it’s incredible that she could even dare to hope for the same. She works at the local soup kitchen and survives off of the charity of others who probably see her as being like a pitiful stray cat. She has her spats with other girls who have begun to succumb to their environment, but she doesn’t stop being her.
Synopsis on Goodreads: Growing up in a bad neighbourhood – just trying to get by and survive without support or love from any family or friends is all Annie has ever known.
Can she now at the age of 17 make any difference and clean up the area she lives in when surrounded by drug dealers, prostitutes and generally the scum of society. Against all these odds will she ever be able to climb Treacle Mountain or always remain hidden away in the shadows crying alone?
Everyone has a bit of Annie in them: some choose to fight, some choose to lurk in the darkness and fly under life’s radar. Can Annie’s inner courage win and make a real difference?
Will a mysterious stranger change her life forever?
While this novel is not extremely explicit in the actions described, it is not intended for young readers. A young adult would certainly find a lot in common with Annie. In some ways, this story reminded me some of Catcher in the Rye or Moby Dick to a lesser degree. The environment is a big focus right alongside the characters as opposed to a central line of action.
Pinkerton is trying to explore Annie’s psyche to the deepest level. Pinkerton though manages to keep things moving at a brisk page while still examining the environment and characters at such a level. I would personally classify this novel as a Drama because of the focus on issues at a personal level and the feeling of sadness that seems pervasive in Annie’s life. Everything feels like it’s decaying with little glimmers of hope in small actions by the characters. It feels crazy that the main character would still imagine hopeful things like going to law school, having expensive clothes, or anything like that when her environment is developed to be so… sad. That’s where I started to think about Catcher in the Rye, how Holden was so disconnected from what was going on around him. Annie is not nearly as unaware of her environment, but she does have a childlike hopefulness.
When I was reading this book, I was looking for seeds that would indicate where the plot was headed. I was expecting something on a grander scale like Godzilla attacking the Bronx or something, but I felt like I was being pulled in several directions. Annie does actually want to make a difference, but think smaller and more personal. She does nice things for her neighbors, looks out for people, and tries to make the right decision for herself and for the people she cares about. Though understanding that certainly made this book make more sense to me, I do think the story could stand to be tightened up some.
As far as the writing goes, I think it’s fairly easy to see that Pinkerton has a clear image in his mind of what the characters are like, what their environment feels like, and what he wants the reader to take away. It’s also good to see an author who is very clearly excited about their own story. At the same time, there were run-on sentences and a handful of instances where one statement about the character contradicted another. These contradictions were not things core to the story, but were noticeable. On a whole, I was able to understand where the author was going and wasn’t thrown off from getting a clear indication of intention.
I did notice some missing or mismatched punctuation, but this generally did not affect my ability to understand the meaning of the sentence. I mention this only because it did not appear to always be intentional and happened enough for me to take note.
The tone of the author is much more casual than other stories, but it doesn’t detract from the actual story. His style is also very descriptive without being something like Charles Dickens. You won’t see entire passages dedicated to describing the thorns of a rose, but you will be getting a very clear image of Annie’s apartment, her neighborhood, and pretty much everything around her. Pinkerton adds these descriptive phrases in between actions to keep the story moving at the same pace.
Overall, this is definitely an interesting read despite needing some clean-up on smaller details. Anyone who enjoys looking at characters and their environments at a deeper level will find something to enjoy about Annie’s day-to-day adventures in the slums of her environment.