In 2012 I worked in Washington DC. Amidst the chaos, omnipresent politics, and scurrying of residents and visitors toward an unknown end, something clouded the purpose, redefining the mood. DC was, and remains, an enigma; the best and worse of the best and worse.
Four hours into my first day I was told the story of four children. It seemed to be a required post-employment discussion. My career as an educator was filled with stories about abused children and homes unfit for the rodents the borrowed beneath the planks.
My orientation guide said, “No one even noticed that they were missing. I don’t know; a lot of time. I think they were withdrawn, at least one of them. I don’t know. That happened in 2008, maybe 2007.”
Officials were notified. Visits to the home netted nothing. An unanswered door, even when noises were audible inside the home, resulted simply in a taped notice to appear in court or notify the school. Follow ups were rare.
“The system dropped the ball, and now, four years later, we’re paying for it.”
On a cold January 9, 2008 morning, CBS news reported:
“U.S. Marshals delivering an eviction notice Wednesday found the decomposing bodies of four youths, probably female and ranging in age from 5 to 18, inside a home in one of this city’s poorest areas, authorities said. A woman who answered the door at the small, two-story brick apartment building where the bodies were found was taken into police custody for questioning, authorities said.”
The story got little coverage beyond DC, overshadowed, perhaps, by the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama.
Four years after the incident, DC remained shook. DCPS Central Office personnel with direct school and student contact were given a new charge; visit the homes of children with excessive absences, although for many the task was not an official part of the job.
So when Tiffany Jackson’s novel, Monday Isn’t Coming, was released shortly after her heavily lauded novel, Allegedly, the story was immediately reminiscent of that conversation in 2012. Ironically, Monday Isn’t Coming follows the story line of the DC reports although it is believed that the book is based on the disappearance of young women and girls in DC. The setting, actions, coincidences and outcomes align with the four children. I am going with that.
Inseparable friends, Monday and Claudia, spend the summer away from one another. Monday stays in DC, Claudia goes south.When Claudia returns to DC she immediately searches for Monday, anxious and excited to tell her about her trip but more so because she misses her. Closer than sisters, Monday and Claudia do everything together.
What follows for over 400 pages is a maze of confusion, deception, and secrets so deep the reader has to reread lines just to make sure they actually read what Jackson had written. Claudia begins a search that becomes a crusade after being told that Monday, who lived in low income housing with her mother and siblings, went to live with other family members. Claudia’s every search for and inquiry about Monday is fruitless, a maze that has no beginning nor end, and this makes the story a little heavy as it progresses.
Claudia’s insatiable need to find her friend leads her on a persona crusade, from Washington DC to Maryland and back. At times the journeys are surreal, beyond reality, especially considering Claudia’s age. After several hundred pages of empty promises, unreal visits, dangerous leads, and endless dead ends the revealing of Monday’s whereabouts are finally emerging. The story felt rushed at times, slow dragging the next. Unfortunately, this becomes distracting, forcing the story to lose some of its focus, but this is only one reason for the lapse.
Tiffany Jackson, whose work blurs the line between realism and horror (see her YouTube short films), Monday’s Not Coming takes an unexpected and believably awkward turn. It is as the book approaches its conclusion that the Jackson trademark become apparent. The final chapters left me saying “I wasn’t ready,” but equally disillusioned because it felt as if Jackson just wanted to conclude this novel, as if she was a modern day Sophist. That aside, Monday’s Not Coming is an interesting read. YA audiences will be thrilled with the language, settings, plot, and twists.
I will away read new releases by Jackson. I only hope she doesn’t rush her amazing skills for profit.