Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I found this book a frustrating combination of a nice spin on the hurt/comfort trope, but with frequent sections that bothered me: long boring inner monologues by the main character, Oliver, and moments of incredible stupidity that literally made me want to DNF the book several times. I persevered because I was reading it for this review, and in the end I was glad I did, but it was close! Oliver is a homeless young man who is brought out of the vicious cycle of his self-recrimination and loathing by the kindness of several people in the community. His love interest, Simon, is actually a rather small part of the group that ultimately makes Oliver believe that he can be loveable, and I thought that was pretty refreshing.
The book starts with a flash forward to a moment when it seems that Oliver is dying. He is thinking of all the people he will miss, and the story truly commences at the time when he first meets the main secondary characters in the book. Two kind old ladies offer him a place in their home on a provisional basis, with the expectation that he help them out around the house. In addition to food and shelter, they offer him respect and kindness, which he has a hard time accepting as he has come to think of himself as the worst kind of criminal. There are hints about an accident, and incarceration, though the details are not revealed (and then only sketchily so) until later in the book. Simon is the boy next door who also befriends the skittish Oliver and encourages him to stay and give the old ladies, and himself, a chance. In the end, of course, Oliver learns to believe in himself and have faith in others, and has a promising future – and that’s not really a spoiler, just the expected resolution of a hurt/comfort romance.
The tragic events in Oliver’s past life were only somewhat vaguely explained, and I didn’t truly follow the path from accident to jail to homelessness. It was all fueled by Oliver’s self-hate, but those endless monologues just made me think he was whiny rather than feeling compassionate for his suffering. He also several times got into situations that he responded to with “too stupid to live” actions that just made no sense, when he was otherwise supposed to be a pretty smart guy. Those seemed like gratuitous drama and angst to me, and completely turned me off. I think different writing could have made me believe that Oliver’s self-hate was justified, but I just didn’t feel it. I didn’t get what his art had to do with anything, it really felt superfluous to his personality and to the story. I never understood what kind of hold Marcus had (the bad guy) had over him. The book was also fairly long for the plot and action that occurred, which I blame on those long monologues, and that made the pace of the book slow, and I found myself putting it down frequently to pursue something more exciting – like doing laundry.
I guess, in the end, the blurb was everything I wanted the story to be, but the execution was kind of a swing and a miss for me.
Cover art by Anna Sikorska was very appropriate for the story, and the empty section of highway was good for the initial somber tone of the story.
ebook, 210 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1635332796 (ISBN13: 9781635332797)