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Book Review: “Escaping Innocence (A Story of Awakening) by Joe Perrone Jr.

From Barnes and Noble:
Ah, “The Sixties” — a brief phrase that conjures up all kinds of amazing images…unless, of course, you weren’t there! It was a time when “free love” was anything but, and there was a heavy price to be paid for messing with “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Find out what coming-of-age in that magical era “really” was like in the outrageously funny novel ESCAPING INNOCENCE (A Story of Awakening) by Joe Perrone Jr. Meet David Justin, an Italian-Catholic, height-challenged youth, desperately trying to escape the bonds of sexual repression and adolescent innocence that dare to hold him captive in — yes, you guessed it — “The Sixties.” Experience them for the very first time, or relive them again and again, but either way, for heaven’s sake, don’t miss ESCAPING INNOCENCE.

When I first received “Escaping Innocence” from the author, he cautioned me about the writing and the material in the book. Would I be able to step outside my own life and comfort zone, into the world of a young man from the 60’s who would face numerous trials, and various life transitions? (Including some colourful language). I said that I thought I was up for the challenge, and I am glad I said yes! Even though I was but a young child in the 60’s!

I was drawn into the book from literally the first page, which was a bit of a surprise! Joe Perrone’s writing style is very inviting and engaging. The humour of this book is definitely a bonus. The real emotions that are conveyed through the main character, David Justin, are extremely well and brightly written.

Although the life experiences written about in this book are not exactly the same as my own, Perrone’s narrative style allowed me to smoothly connect my life experiences with those of the main character, David Justin. In cases that were not at all present in my life, the lives of my friends and family filled in the blanks! I did not ever participate in the real Florida experience during my school days; my thoughts of what it would have been like were actually confirmed by the experience of David Justin! The innocence, combined with the open experience of David Justin, were brilliantly written by Joe Perrone, and I believe truly conveyed the average North American teen culture of the 60’s, as portrayed in news reels, movies, and memories of those who lived the 60’s as teens or young adults.

As far as the sexuality portrayed in “Escaping Innocence”, well, with a title such as it has, how could sexuality not be part of this book? Perrone portrays many types of sexual experiences in this novel, but I believe he does so in non-offensive ways. Straightforward, definitely, but non-offensive. I say that, but I also realize the words and descriptions may be bothersome or offensive to some readers, which is just a bit of a caution.

As far as the offensive language, it did exist, and in some chapters may have been a little overdone. When reading, I do not enjoy strong four letter words, but in this book, I found myself able to scan over them as they occurred. In general, my personal opinion remains that offensive language is never necessary. If authors feel the need to write in offensive language to convey character, a change in writing style might be better employed. I believe Joe Perrone’s writing style is such that offensive language is not required, and all his characters’ personalities are not dependent on the few offensive words they speak. And to that point, the amount of offensive language is very minimal, and accepted by even my critical eye. With the caveat that the title of chapter 30 could be changed!!

There were chapters in the book that did drag a little, and oddly enough, it was specifically the chapters written about the Florida experience. I found that Joe Perrone’s writing style changed a little in that part of the book, became less crisp and clear, and I thought became a little forced, and my interest waned a little. Once the character, David Justin, left Florida, Joe’s writing style was back on track. Maybe it was a section of the book that presented challenges to the writer?

College students do the twist on a Fort Lauderdale beach

Not only were the characters fully explored in the book, as a result of Perrone’s writing style, the characters’ life experiences came through as authentic and genuine. At times I could not wait to find out what was going to happen next! And I appreciated the smooth flow from chapter to chapter. As I was reaching the end of the book, my mind was racing ahead, wondering how the book was going to end! And at the same time, not wanting the book to end! But end it did; and the ending was perfect and fitting. Excellent final chapter.

However, the book is not all humour and laughter. The author does touch on quite serious subjects, some of which are unique to the 60’s, some experienced by teens and young people around the world, crossing through all generations. Subjects such as the Vietnam War, sexual orientation, drugs, and sexual experience in general. The author did not minimalize these subjects in any way, treating each with respect.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book as a way to look back to life in the 60’s – whether you lived it as a teen or not. And look back with delightful and surprising humour, or a real laugh out loud moment. I know a number of people will relate to the adventures portrayed, and will delight in reliving their own 60’s life style.

An extremely engaging read, one I will re-read a few more times.

As I mentioned above, the author emailed “Escaping Innocence” direct to me, and it was at no cost to me. (I have not yet purchased an eReader, so Joe emailed me a pdf copy). Joe Perrone was looking for an impartial review and I hope I conveyed that message. I will say that when I later saw what the cover of the book looked like; I really missed having the book in my hand!! The cover perfectly suits the narrative! I may have to buy the real book for my collection – especially as I really do intend to re-read this book a few more times!

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