If you have not had the pleasure of reading Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s New York Four and New York Five, I would highly recommend them both. It is not quite a coming of age story, but more like a snapshot into the lives of four girls attending college in Manhattan. NYU is about the only thing they have in common. Each of the ladies; Ren, Riley, Lona and Merissa are complex, interesting characters completely consumed with the ups and downs of their respective lives. Aren’t we all?

In New York Five, we meet Olive. She’s a young, homeless girl who hangs out on the stoop of the building where the girls live. This makes for meaningful conversations with the girls, some more than others. You know when you meet a stranger, but they don’t seem strange? So, you talk to them about things that you wouldn’t even tell your bestfriend. I guess that’s how you make friends sometimes. Olive was like that.

Then Olive died. She couldn’t have been more than 19.

When you are that young, and death happens; the flash of mortality is enough for an existential shift.

“Olive’s death hit us hard. This little girl who sat on our stoop and always had the time to chat. Even when we didn’t return the favor. Makes you think about the people close to you, and maybe how to keep them close. Next time.”

That ended their freshman year at NYU; where they were each at various cross-roads, and had some pretty big decisions to make. While the story is a moment in time, Olive’s death inspired their next step and would set the direction of their course … in a good way.

Subtle but powerful.

Olive - Sketch by Ryan Kelly

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