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32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Are you’re looking for an entertaining book to read? Are you also willing to briefly suspend reality--as in what are the chances that two main characters would randomly bump into each other…repeatedly. If you answered “Yes’” to both questions, then let me recommend 32 Candles. This first novel by Ernessa T. Carter will not leave you pondering the meaning of life, but I guarantee you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough.

Growing up in rural Glass, Mississippi, Davidia Jones lives with her mother Cora, who is both an alcoholic and a prostitute. With no father in the picture, Cora treats her daughter with constant cruelty and contempt. To compound her misery, Davidia is equally ridiculed at school for her plain face and hand-me-down clothing. One night with Cora on the town, Davidia stages an imaginary Tina Turner concert. Arriving home early, Cora brutally beats her daughter for wearing her high heels. Davidia chooses to stop talking…permanently. She maintains her mute state through middle and into high school.

The one bright spot in Davidia’s downtrodden existence is her new classmate James Farrell. The Farrells have moved to Glass to run the family business, Farrell Fine Hair. Davidia clandestinely stalks James at school to bask in his beauty and benign energy. Living vicariously through “Brat Pack” movies like 16 Candles, she fervently hopes that handsome James will see the gem of a person hidden behind her plain exterior.

After a school prank where she is heartlessly humiliated in front of her classmates, 15-year-old Davidia realizes that nothing will ever change for her in Glass. In a moment of courage and bravado, she grabs a few crucial belongings, and runs away to an uncertain future. For once, good fortune is shining down on her as she lucks into a ride with truck-driving Mama Jane. Mama Jane is traveling cross-country to visit her nephew Nicky, whose cabaret is set to open in an up-and-coming section of Los Angeles. Oh, and by the way, Davidia has found her voice. In fact, her voice returns with a vengeance when she auditions for Nicky as a potential singer. Both he and Mama Jane are reduced to tears as Davidia pours her life experience into the songs of Billie Holliday and Nat King Cole. Overnight, a mute Plain Jane is reborn.

And now for the good part. Davidia eventually branches out in her career to deliver singing telegrams. On one particular job (and while dressed in a head-to-toe bunny costume), she physically collides with one James Farrell. THE James Farrell. THE JAMES FARRELL from her high school in Glass, Mississippi. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t recognize her from their school days, but he is instantly intrigued with the chanteuse.

Can the once “ugly duckling” go one-on-one with worldly James Farrell? Can life actually imitate the movies? Pick up a copy of 32 Candles to find out! (This title contains mature content.)