In the Middle

Miller Hoffman #1

Fiction - General
302 Pages
Reviewed on 08/10/2013
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Author Biography

Zelmer Wilson (1975- ) was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. At the age of three, he moved with his family to Fort Smith, Arkansas. He would live there until he was eleven years old. In the summer of 1986, he left Arkansas and moved to Phoenix, Arizona with his father and stepmother. During the summer of 1990, while visiting his mother and two sisters in Birmingham, Alabama, he discovered his calling in life, to be a writer. His debut novel, In the Middle, is inspired by his own difficult teenage years in Phoenix, Arizona.

His influences are Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Larry Brown, Janet Fitch, and James Ellroy.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite

In the Middle tells the story of Miller Hoffman, a shy Southern kid trying to be like his father; ambitious and no stranger to success. When his parents divorced, Alma becomes his stepmother and he has a hard time dealing with his attraction toward her. Written by Zelmer Wilson, this is a poignant story of a boy’s journey into adulthood.

The prose is simple, but there is something very honest about it that grabbed my interest instantly from the beginning. Perhaps this was because of the young age of the narrator and protagonist of the story. I sympathized and laughed at the same time as he struggled in his moments of puberty. Obviously, they get harder to handle when he is attracted to his beautiful stepmother at the same time. I did not expect his life to become more difficult and dramatic as the story progresses, which I will not mention here to avoid spoilers. Characterization is good; my only complaint is that finding out the protagonist's name after 24 pages later takes too long for me. Also, even though I’m satisfied with the readable prose, there are times when certain sentences of the narration are too juvenile for my taste.

Even so, In the Middle is a solid read and I did enjoy it enough to finish it in one sitting. Author Zelmer Wilson is a hidden gem in the writing industry and I truly believe that he will get better in his craft. I look forward to his next work.

Kayti Nika Raet

Set in the late '80s and early '90s, In the Middle by Zelmer Wilson chronicles the teenage years of Miller, a bright but troubled kid living in Arizona with his father, an Army veteran and his stepmother, Alma, a woman he's secretly attracted to.

A quiet, pimply-faced seventh grader with a troubled past (he's spent time in a juvenile hall) Miller has a difficult time making friends until the next year when he meets Ray and Eli. During the next couple of years, Miller's relationship with his father grows more strained as he tries to keep his attraction for his stepmother carefully hidden. It isn't until he goes back South to visit her mother that he realizes that he wants to become a writer. Even though his attraction to his stepmother seems to be the main premise, it actually doesn't feature that prominently, more of an undercurrent as he encounters different girls. In fact it seems that it is mostly his relationships with the various girls in his life that provide the catalyst for his growth and change.

When I first read the blurb for In the Middle the premise sounded interesting and it wound up being a fairly easy read that did not disappoint. Since it's literary fiction, it has an almost memoir feel to it (White Teeth by Zadie Smith quickly comes to mind) and I couldn't help but wonder how similar Miller was to the author, Mr. Wilson. Of course that merely points to good writing and how realistically Miller was portrayed.

Katelyn Hensel

Meet Miller Hoffman. Growing up in the '80s in Phoenix, Arizona should be hot. Instead, it’s just boring. Until Miller’s parents get a divorce and his world is shaken up as he decides to move in with his dad and the woman that his dad was cheating on his mom with, Alma. Miller is smart, but he struggles to deal with his new life. His dad is very strict, and keeps his thumb right on top of Miller. But Miller also has a secret; he’s starting to have feelings for Alma…and not the mother and son kind of feelings you would expect. In the Middle is an interesting and realistic story about a kid struggling to grow up in a new and confusing world for him.

The writing style was very personal and reads like a memory from your own childhood, if you happened to have been sexually attracted to someone who was way out of your reach. It is very easy to slip into the minds of the characters and really become involved in the story. What I liked the most about the story was that it was very realistic. Even though it is kind of creepy, kids do sometimes have crushes on their step-parents, or heaven forbid their real parents. It’s something that happens when they need a figure to look up to and before they have found other objects of affection at school or around the playground. So while it may seem a little odd that Miller had a crush on his step-mom Alma, it wasn’t all that odd in reality.

I thought that In the Middle was a thoughtful piece that allowed Zelma Wilson to explore a taboo, but normal, subject that is common in our world. Zelmer Wilson does a great job of exploring teen angst and the classic coming-of-age motif.

trina green

The book was an easy read. I was interested in how it showed male puberty. It could have been a little more detailed in certain areas, but for a first time book, "In the Middle" was not bad.