The Compulsive Move is a short story written by Phillip Cornell. While this is marketed as a book (an eBook), I believe it is more appropriately considered a short story, as it is fifty-nine standard pages long and is easily read in a sitting of just over an hour. The story lacks the overarching structure of a full length novel, but in turn, has the flavor of an introductory glimpse.
The premise is intriguing. The Compulsive Move is a sort of coming-of-age story. However, rather than the romanticized adventures of a teen in high school who finds their inner strength and emerges into a new state of being (adulthood, say…), the main character embarks on a series of bad decisions that could have costly consequences.
The main character, Kevin, is a young man considering his future. He is 19, in college, a minority, from a low-socioeconomic start family. He has an unfulfilling and unrewarding part time job, school doesn’t seem to capture his attention, and his relationships are complex and sometimes difficult. He dreams of a future that he believes he can achieve if only he can get out of his hometown and move to a big city. He embarks on a plan that he keep secret from family and friends until the last minute so that he can avoid anyone talking him out of it. He gets accepting at a university in the city, goes deeply into student debt, and eventually get there. Once he’s there, however, he does not keep his studies forefront in his focus. In fact, although he’s enrolled in a large university studying areas of great interest to him, we never hear about the content of his courses or his passion. Instead, he returns to his behavior patterns of his old town – leveraging popularity and social currency to make a quick buck, never thinking much about legalities, liabilities, or contingencies. Within eighteen months, he is broke, no money for tuition, and that’s when things start to really go badly. There is a denouement when Kevin has an awakening, and realizes he must change, but I confess, I am not optimistic for his post-story-ending future.
I had high hopes for this story, and I have to admit, I was very disappointed. It wasn’t in the plot, or in Kevin’s own story. Rather, the writing is just, well, very poorly structured. I am accustomed to reading book drafts with errata, and even in an officially published book, the occasional editorial mistake is noticed, but not a deal-breaker. Mistakes are missed, and one of the blessings of ePublishing is being able to release an updated edition and make it available to all previous purchases. But The Compulsive Move’s shortcomings go far beyond the occasional typo or spelling error. There are consistent, and jarring, departures from the conventions of published books. Numerals less than one hundred are used instead of the number words. Commas appear randomly and with absolutely no meaning in terms of grammar or relatable expressive usage. There are quite a few spelling errors, and even more errors where I cannot discern whether the writer has made a spelling error or is unaware his is using the wrong word. In two separate instances in the story, the narrative abruptly shifts from third person to first person. The first time, I was so confused, wondering where this narrator came from. He then disappeared, only to come back later in the story… and disappear again. I also had issues with the writer’s long sentence structures, and found myself considering them poorly crafted. In retrospect, I feel I cannot fairly judge these mechanics because they may have been exacerbated by the other editorial problems. I am willing to allow that the long and often awkward feeling sentences may have been a great tool to communicate a feeling, a sense of character and place and time. Sadly, the other mechanical problems in the manuscript did not allow me to assess this fairly. One, two, even a few incidents like these I can pass by, but in this work, they are so common, happen so often, and are so jarring it was a distraction to reading. I would often literally have to stop and ask myself – what is he intending here? What does he want me to understand? I expect to have to do that with deep meaning, but not with simple descriptions. In this story, it’s all over the place.
And it’s a shame, because there is a story here. I wanted to read Kevin’s story – The mom and the former high school teacher in my alternated wanting to shake some sense into him and wanting to sit him down and say, “You have a great,, attainable dream here. Now let’s make a plan – a real plan – that will get you there.” But the reader in me just wanted to hear Kevin’s story. And the reader was very frustrated and had to work altogether to hard to do so.
The Compulsive Move is available on the Amazon platform in Kindle format.