Adult Night at Skate World


Reviewed by Connor Dealing:

Adult Night at Skate World by Christina Kallery, Detroit, MI: Dzanc Books, 2022, 58 pages, $8

Adult Night at Skate World is captivating and offers us a sort of expose to the underbelly of what can be the average life experience. Average does not equate to the unspectacular more than it does the commonly overlooked. Self-discovery, romance, and friendship are all part of the unforgettable journey within this read. The collection lands within narrative poetry and is a story that I feel is universally shared. Each poem is delivered in a way that develops and evolves much like the narratives that are often featured in short stories.

Everything that happens is rooted in reality and it’s never suggested as otherwise but Kallery talks about this life in such a way that feels strategic. The mixture of Realism in the absurd formatted as a formal confession cuts deep and clean. Like the old charming guy with the groovy moves on skates at the teens skating rink, Kallery talks about that guy. Also, the old scraping van of the other old guy who once had dreams of being a rockstar. Tonally this reality is cold, clutching and unforgiving. But it’s also beautiful at the most unexpected moments and unabashedly robust much like real life. This is Christina Kallery’s first book. The writing feels so genuine at times that I wonder if there are even the smallest of elements that could be considered autobiographical.

The subject matter is plentifully diverse for being so congruently themed. It deals with growing up, finding oneself, and the complexity of relationships. Often one thing leads to another, and I think Kallery leans into this a bit. Heartbreak leads longing which leads to obsession which is then the deterioration of mental health. Something I read in this very clearly is the battle with age which is curious because I also read a lot of comfort in the nostalgic. “At The Dollar Store,” another poem within the book details the candy by the register so precious to us as children, and a crutch to our parents.

Important and sometimes confusing questions are asked that confront the reader effectively. Do we belong to the shoulders we choose to cry on? Do I have the right to be mad for being excluded?  Adult Night at Skate World asks the big questions about identity, love, and the choices we make in life. Settings are intimate and nostalgic for anyone born before 2000. Memories that are specific and foundational to the outcome of a generation. I am not sure if there was a main character or protagonist. Who ever was telling the story more often seemed like a bystander or onlooker. That’s not to say nothing happens in first person because it does, but still, it is usually to recall a fond memory. Maybe even rant about a bad one. It explores the idea that our past experiences shape who we are and how we view the world.

I think the premise seeks to connect with not just a wider audience but every one who still feels like their growing up or can’t get enough of their own nostalgia in an ever-changing world. This is for the ones that want to remember to be grateful for the pressure and grime that molded them. The poems are centered around a group of people who reunite at Skate World, the roller-skating rink they frequented during their teenage years. Each character has their own poems which detail their struggles and desires. The author’s vivid and detailed descriptions of the characters and their surroundings make it easy for readers to immerse themselves in the bigger story.

Overall, Adult Night at Skate World is a delightful and thought-provoking read. While there are some moments where the pacing feels slow, the world is built with expertise, and the writing is engaging. Fans of short stories and poetry alike will find this book to be a refreshing and enjoyable addition to their reading list. Kallery’s writing is both beautiful and accessible, and she has created a cast of characters that are easy to root for. The novel is a perfect choice for readers who are looking for a  good rollercoaster that explores a full range of emotion leaving you feeling whole and complete by the end.  It’s a reminder that no matter how lost we may feel in life, there is always hope for a brighter future if we follow our dreams and surround ourselves with people who believe in us.