Kin Platt Jack Forman - Essay

Jack Forman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Flames Going Out] Tammy, a disturbed 16 year old from an upper-middle-class family, plays a game that becomes a metaphor for her mental illness. Tammy lights a match, talks to it, and becomes one with it; as the match burns, she feels alive and creative, but when it dissipates into smoke, her reality disappears. Dr. Greengold, her psychiatrist (a biting but witty and understanding person), helps Tammy develop a self based in reality. Unfortunately, her association with her doctor leads to a romantic involvement with Greengold's hopelessly drug-addicted son, which ends in tragedy for both. The stark realism of Platt's gang stories (Headman …, etc.) doesn't work here, however. Tammy is more than a societal problem, and to make her believable requires more than fast plot action, direct language (punctuated by various uses of the word "fuck"), and some hackneyed attempts to explain Tammy's illness in flashback bits and pieces (an uncle who fondled her and a teen party where she was almost raped). The flame burns brighter and with more substance in Green's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden …, [Judith] Guest's Ordinary People … and, for younger readers, [John] Neufeld's Lisa, Bright and Dark…. (pp. 63-4)

Jack Forman, in his review of "Flames Going Out," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1980 issue of School Library Journal, published by R.R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1980), Vol. 27, No. 4, December, 1980, pp. 63-4.