This exquisite novel, by Meg Haston, needs to be a best seller. The treat is how she probes the fringes of relationships and then dives in deep, exploring and tasting the facets and flavors of complex motivations, false starts and stops, hurt and joy, and finally resolution.
Good writing is supposed to make you feel. For me, The End Of Our Story drilled through forty-five years of ‘trying to forget’ and exposed a raw nerve that throbbed as painfully as when I was seventeen. And, that’s not a bad thing; it’s a tribute to Haston’s talent. The story centers on two teens: Bridge (short for Bridget) and Wils, a pair who have known each other since childhood. Through a time-staggered series of chapters, we experience their path, and witness the significance of people’s actions, how they can alter an otherwise beautiful trajectory. While it sits on the shelves in the teen section of a bookstore, adults should not feel shy about jumping in with both feet if for no other reason than to accept the reminder of the their role in teen life.
If there is any detraction, it might be the repetitive observations that Bridge makes while dealing with the narrative’s issues. Having said that, I still could not put the book down, staying up quite late absorbing the storyline. While it is certainly a stand-alone novel, I am hoping that Haston discovers a compelling way to continue Bridge and Wils’ story.
Sheryl Scarborough’s novel follows a teen girl, who as a toddler witnessed her mother’s murder, a horror that remains unsolved. Obsessed with that lack of resolution, Erin is drawn into the world of forensics, largely in part because her adoptive mother’s brother works for the FBI and authored a book on the subject. Her life is further complicated by an uncommunicative parental figure, a strong desire to learn the identity of her birth-father, and deal with the murder of her favorite teacher – the catalyst that launches the story. Tossed into the mix are her burgeoning feelings toward a boy who is a prime suspect and her relationship with two zany girlfriends.
The book felt like a contemporary spin on a Nancy Drew plot as Erin moves deeper into the gray areas of the law in her search for clues to both murders and her paternity. In a classic case of misdirection, suspects keep stepping to the forefront as Erin struggles to handle the full range of teen emotions that pull in all directions.
Though she faces danger on a number of occasions, the narrative never generates a truly palpable sense of peril, and the real culprit barely scores a menacing personality. Teen fans of TV shows like CSI will appreciate the forensics primer as Erin works through the evidence she accumulates.
A fun story even if it lacks strong emotional teeth.
Reading Without Mercy by Colonel David Hunt and R. J. Pineiro was like a long-awaited visit to the house that Clancy built. From start to finish, the writing duo maintains heart-pounding pacing and tension. In an all too plausible scenario, radical Islamic terrorists target New York City once more, this time with a nuclear device. The remainder of the book has multiple covert and military assets, several federal agencies, and a new President of the United States working around the clock to prevent the rest of the planned attacks.
Hunt and Pineiro have a tendency to over-season their writing with the precise make and model numbers of ships, weapons, and guns; presumably to lend an air of authenticity to the narrative, but the mixture could have done with a little less salt. As always, it’s fun to see stories where the best of American talent is unleashed against impossible odds and its many enemies. It was refreshing to see a movement away from male dominated thrillers by following four very strong female characters throughout the novel, though they couldn’t resist having two of them dealing with romantic issues. But then again, strong human/romantic relationships are often forged against a backdrop of death and destruction and provide a great source of tension.
Hunt and Pineiro made sure to illustrate the mindset of the terrorists and elucidate their motivations. The reader would be hard-pressed to resist the sense of empathy that comes with seeing what drove them to their hatred of the west. They’re also not shy about pointing out the posturing among politicians and government agencies and how dangerous it can be when faced with a time bomb.
Without Mercy delivers a story that reminds the reader just how unstable and unsafe our world is and begs the question of how effective our leadership would be if the circumstances in the novel played out in real life. Given the current political climate, the contemplation of that is almost more frightening than the book.
Ruthless, a realistic young adult novel by Carolyn Lee Adams is a competently told tale about a girl who struggles to survive as the target of a serial killer. Through her ordeal, the heroine Ruth is forced to strip her self-image and reassess the person she thought she was. The plot alternates between the immediacy of her predicament and chapters devoted to backstory. Though relevant, Adams oddly chooses to relay this information by increasing the narrative distance, offering the material through an unnamed omniscient voice. She squanders the opportunity to dig deep and mine the veins of gold that would have enriched the characters. Ruthless does reflect on the way choices and actions alter personality and add to baggage that will forever be a part of the soul, especially when committed by necessity. Adams also offers a distinct testament to the prevalence in our society to stand by and allow bad things to happen.
Serial killers are the true monsters among us, and if the novel falls short in any way, it’s by not having a deeper sense of what Ruth was truly up against. A hero’s dilemma is only as great as the obstacles he or she must face. By increasing the terrifying nature of the killer, it would have served to increase our fear for Ruth. As serial killers go, I thought the character, initially known to her as Ted, was somewhat mild. The reader sees the evidence of his past crimes, but we didn’t get enough sense of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the thing that is most fearsome about these people. It’s the deadliness hidden by the face of normalcy that provides the minefield of suspense for the reader, and on that score, Ruthless didn’t quite hit its stride.