Author: Cory Anderson
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Thriller
Book format: Pre-publication proof of paperback
Life can be brutal
Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.
Jack knew it
Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he’d die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.
So did I
Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.
But now Ava wants to break the rules – to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.
Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?
Looking back, I think I did . . .
This book took me some time to get into but it wasn’t too long before I found myself gripped by the fast pace. Because of who his parents are, especially his father who is in prison, nobody wants to give Jack a job, so he soon turns to someone he knows for some help to find some money that he knows is hidden away. But the money is sought by some dangerous people and before he knows it Jack is running away from men who are out to kill him. This is a very dark ya thriller, darker than I thought it would be considering the title. Jack and his brother are very poor and have barely anything at home, but the love between the two, especially Jack’s love for his brother Matty is strong and was nice to see.
After being introduced to Jack we’re soon shown some other characters as the story chapters switch betwen Jack, Ava and others. The story switches perspective often with most chapters being told in the third person perspective and following both Jack the others, alternating between the chapters. At the the start of every chapter, though, it begins with something narrated by Ava, the girl that Jack soon meets for the first time at school and who soon finds herself involved in his story. These chapter beginnings were interesting to read although I often didn’t know what to think as these sometimes didn’t make obvious sense to the chapter I was reading. However Ava’s story is an interesting one, and one I found I was really drawn to, especially when we soon discover how dangerous a man her father is.
The story goes back and forth getting more and more exciting as different things happen. The story is focused mainly on Jack trying to get away from the men who are after him. I don’t want to go into the details of what happens as it will spoil it, but it’s a very exciting thriller story, although very dark at the same time considering all that happens. The story chapters are marked with Roman numerals and I love how weird and interesting is was when the words at the end of the chapter say ‘GO BACK’ and the numerals (chapter numbers) started counting down again, meaning there are two chapter 31s, two chapter 13s, etc. There are also some really beautiful images at the start of each chapter featuring little grey pictures of tree branches, wolves, and other things that remind me of the US cover of this novel (which is different to this Penguin version).
These beautiful things, and some of the beauty in the story is at odds with just how dark the tale is and I understood how the title made sense to the story in the book. There is an exciting build up towards the end and I found myself so gripped I was unable to stop turning the pages. I couldn’t stop reading and was gripped throughout the action, desperate for all the characters to survive what was happening, despite the ominous sounding narration which to me suggested that not all would. I was pleased to find that I really didn’t know what would happen at the end and there was a moment of relief but the story also has quite a sad and dark ending and the last chapter was a bit of a disappointment as it left me feeling more confused than anything else. The story does have a satisfying ending, although sad, but that last chapter, marked with a different symbol rather than the number Roman numerals was strange to read and it wasn’t until I had looked on Goodreads and read some opinions that I really ‘got’ that last chapter and why it was written in that way.
Overall this was an interesting story and one I enjoyed, there is a little swearing in the story only a very occassional s or f word used. There is a lot of violence though, shooting, with some slightly gory descriptions of violence, there is also deaths mentioned including suicide and some sad and quite dark things that happen to a child too. There is also mention of drug use and dealing. It’s definitely a very dark tale and one that I really didn’t expect to be as dark as it was. Although I did get invested in the story overall, I did find it hard to really connect with the characters. Ava and Jack’s lives were so different from both each other and the lives of teens you usually read about, and although I enjoyed reading both of their stories, parts of them almost felt a bit unreal, too exaggerated, like the poverty, although while reading it I was definitely interested in what would happen to them.
In the end I have enjoyed this story but it was strange and different one and maybe a bit too dark for me at the same time. Although I sometimes like darker stories and thrillers, I just felt like some of what happened was just so dark that I’m not sure how I feel about this after reading it. Some of the descriptions of the place are so vivid and beautiful, especially the wonderful snow and sky and the beauty of the natural area. I enjoyed reading about a different part of America that I don’t often read about, something the author I think was keen to show, but although people like Doyle are great to show the good side of the area, the tale is so dark and bleak at times that I’m not sure if this really does show the true nature of the place or the people who live there. I personally would have preferred a more positive ending to the story, although this is one that I’m sure many will enjoy and it definitely does keep you glued to the pages.
What do you think of this book? Do you enjoy thrillers? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂