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JR Rice

JR Rice

Broken Pencils

A novella by J.R. Rice about one momentous night in a young man’s life.

Jonah Tarver from a wealthy suburb of Oakland California is celebrating his eighteenth birthday on the same night of his high school prom. It is also the anniversary of his best friend’s death, who was tragically killed in a car accident four years previously. Still grieving the loss of his best friend, Jonah has received several years of therapy, but has recently stopped taking his medication. Struggling to cope, he has been caught shoplifting and truanting from school. His father, a Superior Court Judge, is a harsh disciplinarian and believes his son is dishonouring the family. While Jonah has led a relatively privileged life, he does not get the love or support he needs from his father. Jonah’s parents are on the brink of divorce, as Jonah strives to protect his little brother, Steven. His father agrees to loan him the use of his beloved Mercedes to drive his girlfriend, Taniesha, to the prom. But following a heated argument with his parents, his father withdraws the offer and Jonah takes the car without consent. During the prom, Taniesha dumps Jonah because he is unable to commit to their relationship. Fuelled by a cocktail of alcohol and illegal drugs, Jonah is involved in a serious, violent incident at the prom and flees the scene. He drives to San Francisco, where he visits an adult club, and his night goes from bad to worse. When he wakes up on a park bench the morning after, Jonah must face his father and the consequences of his actions.

Broken Pencils is a short, literary work of fiction, by J.R. Rice. This is a dark, gripping and thought-provoking tale, which explores how a single moment of recklessness can have far reaching consequences. Rice delves into the complex life and psyche of Jonah, a young Black man suffering from mental health issues and trauma following the death of his best friend. On the night of his eighteenth birthday and prom, the night takes a dramatic turn, following a violent incident in the school bathroom. Jonah finds himself in a precarious situation, as he attempts to navigate the San Francisco underworld. Readers will both empathise with, and loathe, this relatable, complex teenager.

Star rating: 5 Stars 

Summary: A gripping coming of age story and a skilful exploration of grief, the human psyche and broken relationships.

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