Tori Morrow’s “Run Away, Girls” was a gem-encrusted needle in the huge prose haystack I was assigned to read in this round of reviews. A thread seemed to pull me through, preventing me from stepping away. I consumed this piece happily, so engrossed that I didn’t notice the passage of time around me when I finally came to an ending that looped me all the way to the beginning again.
The story itself waltzes through the life of a teenager in the mid-80s without a family aside from the runaways who take her in when her mother overdoses. The Runaway Girls include Fox, the mysterious older driver; Gigi, the happy-go-lucky type; and Christian, a stoic black girl like the main character who sells cocaine. Through the years in Fox’s RV, the main character adapts to the lifestyle of selling herself to older men and faces the brutal realities of living like a ghost breezing from small town to small town, never staying longer than they needed to make money before moving on.
The truly amazing thing about this piece is the way the characters develop over time. The interconnection the characters have as well allows them to reach their full peaks, such as the scene at the 24/7 ice cream shop in California where the reader fully sees who Christian becomes after being introduced as someone who “didn’t speak a whole lot.” Christian, who is expecting, asks of the main character, “When she’s born, will you take her somewhere? Like, a church? A fire station? I don’t know, I hear they get a lot of babies, or something.” Without this journey of change, readers aren’t compelled to really care for the characters they’re exposed to. There’s nothing motivating them to reach the end of the story. What kind of journey means anything if it doesn’t leave a mark on those who travel it? This development carries even more potency because of the fact that Christian was abandoned as a child in a grocery store, unwanted.
Despite my adoration for it when I finished reading it, in some ways this piece did not fit my image of what LEVITATE would become. I wanted the caliber of craft shown in “Run Away, Girls,” but wasn’t prepared for the emotional weight. This piece, while highlighting the good, also deals with raw topics such as teenage pregnancy, loss, and abortion, alongside the question of what this main character won’t do to remain with her family. I didn’t think I would find a story about young women weathering such an array of challenges, developing before our eyes as if we as an audience had truly been with them over the years. Morrow’s work reminded me that the stories we read and enjoy often couple the subtle joys of life, like a campfire in the Arizona desert, or the love of those who care for you, with the lows that terrify us as well, like saying goodbye.
Elizabeth Vazquez, Co-Editor-In-Chief of Levitate, is a junior fiction writer at the Chicago High School for the Arts. She loves history, fish tanks, and bubble tea.