Tuesday, October 19, 2010

‘Solitary’ by Travis Thrasher – Book Review

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I don’t often read books in the Juvenile Fiction category, but I made an exception for ‘Solitary’ by Travis Thrasher. I was intrigued by its description.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

His loneliness will soon turn to fear. When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces – and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together.
Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town herself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room of his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.
This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin – and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see.

Here is the biography of this author:

The author of a dozen works of fiction, including Isolation and Ghostwriter, Travis Thrasher  has been writing since he was in the third grade. He is an author of diverse talents with novels including romance, suspense, adventure, and supernatural horror tales. At the core of each of Thrasher’s stories lie flawed characters in search of redemption. Thrasher  weaves hope within all of his tales, and he loves surprising his readers with amazing plot twists and unexpected variety in his writing, as well as honesty, depth, and surprising twists. Thrasher lives with his wife and three daughters near Chicago.

And here’s the book trailer for this book:

Chris feels like a complete outsider in this new environment. This passage gives a good glimpse into his personality and perspective:

          Every class I’m introduced to seems more and more unimpressed.
“This is Christopher Buckley from Chicago, Illinois,” the teachers say, in case anyone doesn’t know where Chicago is.
In case anyone wonders who the new breathing slab of human is, stuck in the middle of the room.
A redheaded girl with a giant nose stares at me, then glances at my shirt as if I have food smeared all over it. She rolls her eyes and then looks away.
Glancing down at my shirt makes me think of a song by The Smiths, “Half a Person.”
That’s how I feel.
I’ve never been the most popular kid in school. I’m a soccer player in a football world. My parents never had an abundance of money. I’m not overly good looking or overly smart or overly anything, to be honest. Just decent-looking and decent at sports and decent at school. But decent doesn’t get you far. Most of the time you need to be the best at one thing and stick to it. (p. 14)

Chris has a gracious and loving – yet realistic - opinion of his mother:

Mom is thirty-nine but looks ten years younger. If I had a dollar for every time someone had expressed disbelief that she is my mom…well, I‘d be a rich kid. Which at this point in life would be nice. I think she’s beautiful.
She used to complain about her upcoming birthday – the big four-oh – until she had other, more pressing things to think about. Sitting across the table from her, I see dark lines under her eyes. They’re new. So is the lack of spark in her green eyes. And how thin she looks. And how faded her blonde hair seems. (p. 19)     

Chris’s father became religious – not necessarily a Christian – and made some choices and developed some incorrect theology that caused Chris to turn his back on God:

Dad used to tell me – well, tell isn’t actually right, it was more like preach to me – that there was no such thing as chance in this life. That God controlled everything.
I wanted to say, “Yeah, well, if that’s the case, Pops, then why did God put you and Mom together?”
I think it’s easier to not believe in God knowing that Dad does.
It’s easier to pick a side.
That’s what I believe in. That’s the team I’m on. (p. 79)

Chris is captivated by Jocelyn from the beginning. They both start out with the same doubts about God. But Jocelyn’s faith takes an unexpected turn, as she explains to Chris in this exchange:

“All I know is this. This is the truth. God sent you to me. He used you in the most amazing way ever. Do you believe in destiny?”
“I’m not sure. I’d say no.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t either until it slapped me on the face, and I woke up and saw a beautiful, brilliant sunrise and realized that every day we have is a gift. And every smile that comes along is a gift too.”
I’m totally lost.
Who is this person, and where did Jocelyn go?
“Not sure what to say.”
Jocelyn finished her meal, then puts the basket over my half eaten meal.
Don’t say anything. Just know this. You’re the gift that came along. You and your words.” (p. 200)

I was really swept away by this book! This is the first book I have read by Mr. Thrasher, having heard rave reviews of his writing for a long time. Now having read one myself, I have to agree with all of the raves! Chris Buckley, the main character, is a high school student full of angst (aren’t they all?! And weren’t we all?!). The story is written from his point of view, and Thrasher transports me into the mind of a high school boy with all of the ensuing trials and tribulations. My teenage years were very difficult, so it was strange to be able to relate to this character (despite the difference in our genders). During the time that I was reading this book, I was as unsettled as was Chris. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a great writer – when you feel that much empathy for a two-dimensional character in a book.

Thrasher’s writing reminded me in some places of elements of the works of Stephen King, Ted Dekker, and Dean Koontz. The difference between this book and those by King and Koontz, for instance, is that God’s redemption is evident in this book. I was surprised by the ending, but happy that truth was revealed and believed.

I am not sure if the second book in the ‘Solitary Tales’ series will pick up with Chris Buckley where this one left off (I certainly hope so), but there are enough other interesting characters in this book to keep me wanting to come back for more!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by the B &B Media Group for review purposes.


Linda said...

I read and blogged on Solitary. Even though not a teen, I sure could remember those days (not like in the book, though). Great book. Ready for the next one in the series.

Trinity Rose said...

I've read many books of Travis', but haven't had the chance to read this one yet. Thanks for telling us about it.
Trinity Rose

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