A View from the Library-By John R. Clark, MLIS
I’ve been reviewing books for http://www.tcm-ca.com for a number of years, focusing mostly on young adult, fantasy and technology works. It’s interesting, sometimes challenging (when you have to write a review on a pretty awful book) and quite satisfying. Along the way, I’ve made friends with several authors and have discovered some real gems (Montooth, which I wrote about last month, was one of them).
Last year, I agreed to review Solitary, a first YA book by Travis Thrasher. I admit to initial reservations because Travis is billed as a writer of Christian fiction, a genre which I am often tempted to describe as chaste virgins who were home schooled or orphans, wondering every three pages “What does HE want me to do?” Well, let me tell you, Thrasher writes books that have a definite spiritual component, but with serious cojones. I loved Solitary, so much so that I went out and bought or traded for everything else he had written. In June,, Gravestone, the sequel to Solitary came out and I stayed up ’til the wee hours of the morning two nights running because it was as hard to put down as the first one. Now I have to wait another ten months for the third installment.
I’ll be the first to admit that the lines between mystery and urban fantasy are easily blurred and these two could fall into either category quite nicely. I’m highlighting them this month because they’re perfect attention grabbers for teens (and adults) across the reading spectrum. The first book opens shortly after high school junior Chris Buckley and his mother move from Illinois to Solitary, North Carolina. Chris is still trying to come to terms with the after-effects of his parents’ divorce which followed his stressed-out dad quitting drinking and finding religion. Solitary, is a heck of a lot different from his old town and high school, but even odder is the disappearance of his uncle whose cabin Chris and his mom are using.
When Chris starts attending Solitary High, he is greeted by three girls who sense he is an outcast like they are. All three are attractive and interesting, but it is the mysterious and beautiful Jocelyn Evans who he falls for big time. While she hints at a past history of abuse and seems to blow hot and cold about their relationship, Chris finds it impossible to stop obsessing about her. As their relationship progresses, he discovers further evidence that there is far more evil underlying daily events in Solitary than anyone ever imagined. It also seems that there are a lot of people intent upon preventing him from dating Jocelyn. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it was a total stunner, leaving me intrigued and extremely eager for book two.
Gravestone picks up very soon after the climax of book one. Chris is not only confused about his feelings, now that Jocelyn is dead, but embittered by the realization that there are plenty of people who believe that she simply moved to Florida with her mother. Poe, the Goth Girl of the trio of girls who greeted him at the beginning of book one, lets him know in no uncertain terms that she hate Chris and blames him for the disappearance of her best friend. Meanwhile, his mother has crawled inside a bottle when not working at the local diner, leaving him with nobody to talk to while he tries to process feelings, and more importantly, figure out who in this creepy town can be trusted.
The sudden appearance of a young man claiming to be his missing uncle’s son, strange tunnels leading to abandoned buildings, a new love interest from his art class, who he struggles not to like, a job working for a mysterious 80ish woman who runs a remote inn (considered by locals to be either haunted or evil) and a growing suspicion that the flashy minister of the fundamentalist church in town is a significant part of the evil all add layers of intrigue to the second book in a four part series.
If you want to sink your teeth into one of Travis Thrasher’s adult books which certainly qualifies as a mystery, I suggest Admission which took me back to my college days in a hurry.