Gruesome Coming of Age Mystery

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ashleysawyer Avatar


"Where is the end and the start and the thing that causes the end that leads to the start? How do you tell where you were or tell the difference of where you are? Did everything lead to this moment? To this single grain of salt?"

Thank you to BookishFirst and Roaring Brook Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Content warnings (from what I remember, there are probably more): blood, physical assault, guns/knives, drug use/abuse/sales, threatened animal abuse, animal deaths, parental/emotional abuse, suicide, death

I first discovered an excerpt of this book on BookishFirst, and was drawn in immediately by the cover. The excerpt itself was graphic, and not at all like something I would generally choose to read. I found myself wondering what happened to the main characters for the rest of the week, though, and knew I needed to request an ARC.

This story follows Jack, Matty, and Ava, the children of two men who were caught up in a drug deal gone wrong. Despite their best intentions, the three of them seem to run into one tragic event after another, most of which seem to be due to the choices of their parents and not their own.

Although I love the detailed writing style, almost fragmented sentences, and short chapters, I found the varying perspectives to be confusing. By the end of the story, there are portions from the perspective of Jack, Matty, Ava, the boys' mom, Ava's dad, the boys' dad, the local sheriff, and possibly more I've forgotten. There were no cues to perspective switches other than a new paragraph at times. Because of this, I had to read the same section multiple times trying to figure out who was thinking.

My favorite part of this book was how even minor details that appeared to warrant no special attention ended up tying into the storyline. The chapter headings were gorgeous, and I found it unique how they counted up to 33 and then started counting back down again!

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes thrillers with open endings or gruesome coming-of-age novels with references to literature like Invictus, White Fang, and Henry David Thoreau. If Goodreads is correct about this being a series, I will continue it!

"Night is near and dark is coming. But I will spark and burn and blaze."