Excellent story that turned out more enjoyable than I anticipated. I don't read as much YA as some of my reading buddies, and I tend to rate it a little harsher, so I was surprised by how hooked I became to this one.
I was kept on my toes with the dark psychological twists as the main character, Jason, is pulled into compromising directions by a popular, rich group in school. The story reminds me a little of something Christopher Pike may have written when I was growing up, but not quite the same, enjoyed in the similar vein (I love Pike's twists too.) Whatever seems to be simple on the surface never is, and it's impossible to guess everything, impossible to never be surprised.
Thankfully I cared about the protagonist, which made whatever was going on even more riveting. Sometimes he seemed to have too stiff a shoulder, but it showed in the end that he was right to be that standoffish and I was the one giving too much benefit of the doubt. His driving focus, that which kept him determined to make sacrifices and to take chances, was a plausible one. Yucky home life to the extreme, this story touched not only on the manipulations played at school, but the very real trauma of child abuse and psychological torment played on children by demented father figures.
As one of several villains of the story, Michael's personality hypnotized me. Sociopaths are a dime a dozen in novels, but its not a simple issue. The play in this with the power of dominance and influence in the high school circle revved my interest up another notch. Even if he is playing a villain with no heart, there is always some heart there, no matter how dark. It's a simple label, but he's not a simple character. I prefer realistic villains, not just black and white stereotypes. Villains in this book are facinorous through and through, but they're still madly fascinating.
I never saw all that could be coming - who could? - but some of the guesses proved true. Even when they did, I wasn't let down as there were twists with how it played out still. Using your fists to fight through life isn't an answer, as the character already knows in his reasoning, but sometimes violence isn't avoidable if you're in a violent world.
It was almost painful to put this book down in between real-life reading breaks. Always something is going on to change things or upset balances, raise questions and make me bite my lip wondering what's coming next. There are a few scenes that stand out in my mind especially well, geared forth through the writer's writing style, where I can picture them clearly in my head.
Parsons employs short and sharp sentences to carry hefty meaning, but he ties this in between poetically pretty phrasing. Hard to describe, but it's a style that works.
While Jason is beset with monstrous companions and a horrible situation, he isn't mopey or whiny, only realistically strong and realistically fragile. I felt for him through all the trials, and think the author handled the ending well. There is no such thing in this situation as a realistic happy-go-lucky turnaround, even if some things look up for the moment. There has to be that down time in between tragedies where one slowly starts to heal, no magic rubber band that bounces back in perfect shape when it's done.
This YA is recommended for every age - it avoids triangles, young adult cliches, or anything too 'young.' It's an adult novel for adults, a young adult novel for young adults. Highly recommended. I'll definitely check out more of the authors' work when he writes it.
“In all the movies, in all the books and shows, when the zombie apocalypse comes, the humans turn out to be worse than the zombies," he said. "Always.”