A Rebel Comes of Age by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

A Rebel Comes of Age by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (289 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Seventeen-year-old heroine Angela Jones meets a nineteen-year-old activist named Fabio during the Occupy Wall Street protest in September 2011. Together with three other homeless teenagers, they “occupy” a vacant commercial building in Brooklyn’s disadvantaged Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Over the course of five months, they transform Freedom House into a teen homeless shelter.

When Bank of America takes them to court to obtain an eviction order, Fabio and the other teenagers decide to use automatic weapons to prevent the police from evicting them. Determined to stop the eviction by nonviolent means, Ange reaches out to other groups in the African American community. They help her obtain legal advice and start a large community coalition.

The court grants the eviction order, and the police arrive to find the church has mobilized seventy-five community members to commit civil disobedience by blocking access to the building. Meanwhile Ange is one of four residents standing at the front windows with an M16.

Enthusiasm is contagious for a while, but eventually even the most dedicated activist must make hard choices. Will Angela know what to do when everyone she counts on tells her to do something different?

Imagine running away from home and finishing your childhood on the streets. While Angela’s idealism and stubbornness make it difficult to like her at times, the idea of growing up homeless is so sad and frightening that I developed a great deal of respect for her due to everything she’s endured so far in her short lifetime.

This tale includes so many characters that most of them had very little time to express their personalities or grow as individuals. Angela has a complicated backstory and nuanced personality, but most of her fellow protestors do not. While allowing certain supporting characters to fad in and out of the plot is quite realistic given the setting and nature of their lives, I would have liked to see more time spent developing at least a few of the people Angela meets at Freedom House. The little I learned about their lives and reasons for moving into Freedom House made me eager to discover more.

With that being said, Ms. Bramhall captures the strengths and weaknesses of the Occupy movements extremely well. Long-term political protests require a level of organization that is extremely difficult to uphold. This is even more true when one is committed to a truly democratic decision making process that requires the cooperation and input of a large group of people. The strongest points in this novel involve showing how this process unfolds over a long period of time when good intentions rub up against the harsh realities of daily life.

A Rebel Comes of Age is a great choice for teen and adult activists alike. I’d recommend it to anyone who has ever attempted to change the world for the better in even the smallest way.

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