A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action. Reading in a wide range of genres and working to develop what little musical talent I possess occupy my time and, I believe, serve as complements to my writing. As a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.
Books by Jim Hartsell
What Readers say on Pushing Back
I absolutely loved this story. Hartsell has a prodigious talent for painting character portraits from a first person perspective. The central character, Boone, is three-dimensional, beautifully imperfect and wholly engaging. He is a teenage boy who is forced to embrace adulthood ahead of schedule due to tragic circumstances in his life. I was riveted to Boone's psyche and, even though this sounds completely like a cliche, I could not stop turning the pages.
First person narrative is notoriously hard to pull off convincingly. Hartsell nails it. I felt like a part of Boone - a confidant, if you will. By the time I got halfway through the story I felt like he was a good friend telling me all about his hopes, worries and challenges. He carries the optimism of youth clouded by the harshness of the reality around him. His life is not easy by any stretch, but he is strong and carries on. Tragedy hammers him. Uncertainty rails against his peace of mind. His father's darkness and his mother's distance haunt him. Still, hope remains.
Life remains. Boone perseveres.
I really enjoyed this book. I flew through it. It was almost over too soon. Highly recommended!
Just for you parents out there : This book is appropriate for mid-teens and up in my opinion. There is sparse mild profanity, some violence and some very light sexual situations - nothing explicit
Tilmer Wright ~ Author
.A Powerful story!
In Pushing Back, Jim Hartsell’s sorrowful but powerful and brilliantly written story of a young man named Boone whose family has been torn apart, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Told in first person, the emotions this story evoked in me were incredible as Boone lives “on the edge”, finding hope and learning to trust through evolving friendships with Gamaliel, Gamaliel’s daughter Carrie and Nancy. I experienced Boone’s fears, his isolation and his uncertainty in intimate detail as he is forced to face many daunting personal issues alone. You can’t help but root for Boone and suffer with him as he struggles to survive.
Sam ~ Author
A compelling read! *****A broken boy from a broken home, angry and bitter, discovers his inner strength while he struggles against poverty, rejection and lonliness. Sixteen year old Boone Hammond is forced to become a man before his time, with a man's need for love and companionship.BJ Gillum ~ Author TN
What Readers say on Matching Scars
A must read!
Sam Bledsoe, AuthorIn Matching Scars, Jim Hartsell has written a brilliant followup to his first book about Boone's difficult coming of age. This book is like a fine diamond with so many facets to the gritty story of a young man who grudgingly learns how to trust others and to care for someone else. You will find yourself identifying with Boone and rooting for him every step of his gut-wrenching journey to being a man. A must read!
Sam Bledsoe, Author
I loved this book. I can't wait for the next installment.
After finishing Book One in this series, Pushing Back, I was excited to get the chance to read more about the life of one of my favorite literary characters since Scout Finch. If that sounds like high praise, it's because that's exactly what it is.
Jim Hartsell has a real gift with first-person narrative. Matching Scars picks up where Pushing Back left off. Boone is still struggling with the challenges of adulthood that have been thrust upon him prematurely. He tells you about these challenges in a way that pulls youTilmer into his confidence like a brother or close friend. He's engaging. He's real. I almost expect to bump into him on the street in real life. I mentioned this in my review of Pushing Back, but it bears repeating here. Part of Boone's appeal is that he's not perfect. He is, however, perfectly flawed. His human weaknesses and shortcomings remain a part of his psyche, even as he is forced along the path of maturity. This makes Boone an incredibly believable character - and it makes the reader genuinely care about what is happening to him.
For readers of the first book in this series, you will be glad to see the same small cast of characters assembled around Boone in the story. A few newcomers show up, but the circle is still pretty small. This gives the story a sense of intimacy and allows the reader to stay close to the personalities in play. You really do need to read Pushing Back prior to diving into Matching Scars. Book Two is excellent on its own, but there are many threads picked up from the first book.
I loved this book. I can't wait for the next installment.
Note to parents : As always, I try to give some guidance to parents who may have kids reading books I review. Matching Scars is about on par with its predecessor with regard to adult content. There is some scattered mild profanity and a little bit of tasteful sensuality, but nothing offensive or explicit. I would rate this book at about a PG-13 level. It's not a book aimed at children or the YA crowd, but it should be fine for mid-teens and older.
Tilmer Wright ~ Author
What Readers say on Journey: Mouse, Bear, Eagle, Buffalo
A compelling readCreated on 06 March 2018
The author’s extensive experience in counselling troubled youths has given him insights into their attitudes and behavior; but it is his talent as a writer that puts the reader inside their heads. In this slim volume we inhabit the mind of a rebellious sixteen-year old boy as he journeys through one year in an alternative high school. Like in the classic novel Rebecca, we never learn the name of our first-person narrator. The author may have done this to stress the commonality of the boy’s anger and frustration as he searches for a better sense of self.
Each chapter is titled with the aspects of the Medicine Wheel system of development: Mouse (small and fearful); Bear (the hibernator looks within); Eagle (looks at the big picture); and Buffalo (symbol of strength, reaches out to help others).
There are many well-known quotes about the meaning of journeys; most of them recognizing they involve positive changes in small increments. Here, too, the boy’s perceptions of himself and the world around him evolve slowly. Through the character’s internal dialogue, we understand how he first sees those around him as threatening and untrustworthy. Then, he begins to have glimpses of doubt about his own perceptions. Gradually, he makes peace with others and sees glimmers of hope that he can accomplish something positive. At the end of the school year (and the book), he recognizes he has matured enough to be of help to a new student he can see as his former self.
Reading this book is a learning experience in coming to terms with self-doubts we all have to some degree. In telling the story, the author uses natural language and realistic situations to make a compelling read. I highly recommend this book and would like to see a sequel to continue this journey.
Cheryl Peyton ~ Author & Member AGTPsychology 101 seasoned by lively, salty dialogueCreated on 07 November 2016
Street language adds a feel of reality to this short study in how to bring a troubled youth to a better understanding of himself. Psychology 101 seasoned by lively, salty dialogue. A snapshot of the inner workings of a troubled teenager's mind and the process by which he is saved from his own demons. ****
BJ Gillum ~ Author TN
My Latest Blogs
Since "Keeping Secrets," the third book in the Boone series, goes on sale tomorrow, I thought I'd say a little about where Boone comes from. This is from my website housemountainviews.com:
If you know my history, both personal and professional, it’s easy to see where Boone comes from. I was raised in rural East Tennessee, like Boone. I have a younger sister, a little closer in age to me than Hannah is to Boone. I was (and am) socially insecure, just like Boone. The similarities start breaking down after that, and the rest of Boone’s personality and history comes from the hundreds of young people I worked with over the years.
I spent my professional career working with teenagers on the fringes of society — they were dealing with emotional problems, behavior problems, drug addiction, court involvement, often in combination. That was part of who they were, but only part. They were also kind and generous and funny and perceptive young people, but they didn’t show that to everybody. They had very little reason to trust anyone in authority and a lot to be angry about. Many of them had no idea of the sweep of American history or the beauty of the English language or the power of mathematics, but what they did have was a finely honed survival instinct. They could read situations and people, but frequently their anger and mistrust interfered with casual social interactions. They had limited choices available to them and were sometimes not aware of the choices they did have.
Boone lives on the fringe of society. His family history, anger, and overall stubbornness are all pushing back against any chance of him gaining entry into the world that Nancy and Tiny and Curt and Mark live in, and mostly he’s trying just to get by. Once in a while he learns something that sticks with him; once in a while he lets down his guard. He’s trying, as best he knows how, to do the right thing when he can figure out what that is.
I had no intention of writing a series when I began “Pushing Back”. The story of Boone, a sixteen-year-old East Tennessee boy who is trying as hard as he can not to turn out like his daddy, quickly became what we as writers hope for and occasionally achieve, where the story takes over and we’re just trying to keep up. Boone is young and sometimes foolish, impulsive and quick to anger, insecure, and doesn’t have money, looks, or connections to help him over the inevitable rough spots. But he’s trying, which I guess makes him more like the rest of us than not, and I thought it was a nice little stand-alone kind of story.
He would not, however, stay out of my head. So here we are, with at least a two-book series, and the third one is already sneaking around in my head. Not quite ready to come out yet, but it’s there.
“Matching Scars” continues Boone’s story, and most of the same players are back. One notable addition is Tiny, who I thought was going to be a minor character. So much for planning ahead. I’m releasing it on March 18th; the Kindle version is available for pre-order starting this morning. I’ve dropped the price of the Kindle version of “Pushing Back” to 99 cents for those who haven’t read it yet. It’s a necessary intro to “Matching Scars”.
The evolution of my newest book, "Father and Sister Radish and the Rose-Colored Glasses", is somewhat circuitous. When my wife was very young, she had pet chickens, two of which were named Father and Sister Radish, because of their red feathers.
A couple of years ago, we were at my sister's house and Suzanne was telling stories about her pet chickens, including the problem of aggression among members of the flock. My brother-in-law found an article (on the internet, of course) about goggles for chickens that were used to minmize the aggression. The goggles were red, which of course meant the chickens were wearing rose-colored glasses.
From that came the notion of a little girl who, when she sees how well the glasses work in her little flock, wonders if the same thing would work on a new kid in her class who bullies the other children. And so the story was born.
The illustrator, A. B. Walker, is someone I've never worked with before but will certainly work with again. I found her (on the internet, of course) through contact with her father, a graphic designer.
We approved the proof yesterday, and the book will be listed on Amazon on my author's page (amazon.com/author/jimhartsell). If you want to see the proof, I'll have it along with my other books at Ijams Nature Center on this Sunday, December 4th, from noon to 5 pm for their Holiday Market. Hope to see you there; there will be many fine artists and craftspeople, and I have heard rumors of food trucks and a beer garden.