No Forwarding Address
by Paddy Stewart
Trafford Publishing

"In a few months he would have to leave this place and go somewhere. But where would he go?"

It seems a sad commentary on the state of families today and the raising of the next generation, when a teenager serving mandatory time in an adolescent drug treatment facility is "determined not to goof up and risk being discharged early." Yet, such is the plight of Reynaldo Garcia, aka Rey, the troubled youth at the center of Paddy Stewart's powerful character driven novel.

Through life's circumstances we see Rey bounce from the home of relatives, to foster care, to drugs and crime. The bed and three meals a day he receives at the treatment facility seem a luxury. Here, the concerns and care of a particular caseworker, teacher, and chaplain have a positive influence on Rey. He shows effort in his schoolwork, has an interest in softball, and is smitten with the beauty of fellow patient, Carmelita. Unfortunately, the Pines center also houses more toxic repeat offenders, and Rey is forewarned to keep his distance. Temptations are prevalent, and the author makes pointed use of staff member characters that have their own serious issues. Clearly it's not only the teens that have problems.

In this relatively short work, the author manages to introduce readers to a variety of characters. Stewart skillfully offers pertinent detail and realistic dialogue to covey the background and working dynamic of the individuals within the story. At its core, Rey is a young man with a heart and a conscience, who knows right from wrong and just needs a connection to home. While much of the storyline takes place within walled surroundings, this plays into the theme of confinement. The author also creatively includes a "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" poster detail in the caseworker's office. Initially unfamiliar with the phrase, Stewart effectively brings her lead character's development full circle, as Rey learns problems can be overcome, and he is not destined to become a victim of circumstance. Overall Stewart presents a well-written, engaging novel that recognizes the importance of encouragement and a stable environment, for young individuals searching for their place in the world.

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