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Blues for a Dime Store Guitar
Author: Ray Sikes 
Publisher: Greatunpublished 
Length: 313 pages 
 
Blues for a Dime Store Guitar is a young adult book that sets out to be different; Christian, yet with an edge. Author Ray Sikes attempts to break new ground by combining an uplifting spiritual message with a gritty and realistic prose. Whether he succeeds or not in writing a good story is left up in the air. 
 
Set in the late 1970s in a geographic area somewhere below the Mason-Dixon Line and definitely near the ocean, Blues for a Dime Store Guitar tells the story of the spiritual, or lack thereof, journey of three young people: seventeen-year-old Angie and the early twenty-something-brothers Duane and Clayton. The book opens with city girl Angie suddenly finding herself living with her grandmother in a small backwater town, a result of her mother going to find a better life in Texas. Mom promises to return soon, once she finds employment. Of course, we know Mom will not and Angie is stuck in the boondocks. 
 
Easily bored with nothing to do, Angie quickly meets bad-boy rock-star wannabe Clayton and falls for his long-haired, smooth-talking charms. Eventually, Clayton’s hardcore-Christian brother, Duane, enters the plot. Sikes then sets the stage for exploring the inner workings and conflicts of each character.
 
Midway through the book, I stop caring about any of them. 
 
Blues for a Dime Store Guitar features morbidly self-centered characters whose uninteresting lives are further magnified by how much they sit around and whine about their present pathetic states. Even worse are the Christian characters. Case in point: Duane. Equally judgmental of others and self-loathing, Duane spends the majority of his time either lecturing Clayton about the dangers of his heathen lifestyle or sitting alone in his apartment agonizing over his fallen condition. Angie, who after getting dumped by Clayton finds Christ, is equally as adept at judging others although given that her perception of Christianity is in part influenced by Duane, I cannot blame her. In fact, the Christian characters are so insipidly annoying that for a while I was convinced Sikes was trying to write a satire on church culture.
 
Clayton is marginally more interesting as the resident sinner. He is at least consistent in his lascivious lifestyle and provides some entertaining moments and quips. Unfortunately, even his shtick gets old after a while. 
 
A different tack taken by Sikes is his use of what can be called a PG-13 writing style. He does not sanitize the prose, giving it a real world feel that does a fairly good job of conveying the rough-edged lifestyle of Clayton and his shaggy-haired cohorts. However, in doing so, he will obviously offend Christians used to reading swear-free, sex-free tomes. If you are someone who likes his or her literature squeaky clean, you may not want to read this book. Otherwise, it is one of the most appealing aspects of Blues for a Dime Store Guitar.
 
Realistic writing, however, cannot save this title from the wretchedness of its characters. Duane, Angie, Clayton, and their supporting cast had me wanting to throw this book across the room, or nod off for a nap, depending on the chapter. Wretchedness can be an endearing trait if used correctly; Sikes has not yet discovered the formula.
 
Blues for a Dime Store Guitar is a good idea marooned by irksome characters.  The gritty realism is commendable, but the tedious characterization is not. 
 
Noel Lloyd 
2/26/04 

 
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