How do you explain growing up in a world separated by a literally broken bridge? The City is a bustling utopia with mindless drones addicted to their material possessions unaware of the zombie like behavior they exhibit. The Town is broken, filled with lost souls who desperately fight to put food on the table. Beech does not shy away from his descriptions, painting a world reflective of the “haves vs have nots”. Beyond the metaphors that give deeper insight, these places could be anywhere. This could be your town, your city – your home.
The book introduces us to Ricky, a boy who refuses to remain home babysitting his brother while his mother works. His friend is Bixby, who is on the lam from the foster care system. His love is Liz, who aspires to get out of Town and spends time with an older boy who helps her learn more outside of her classroom. Tanais might be an outsider to the group, with her parents still together and her desire to just have friends at all.
Most of the story centers around abandoned homes near the river separating the City from the Town. Our characters spend all their free time there, calling it their place. The emotional connection of having a safe space to call their own is easy to understand as it pulls at your memories of your childhood.
That is… until they find a dead body in the basement of one of those houses. What follows is a twisted tale of our characters trying to wade their way safely through two villainous group’s plans. The ones who want you dead for seeing too much; and those who demand you follow their lead. It’s a push and pull that forces these children to grow up well before they should.
Beech’s underlying visuals remind us that each of his characters might be alone, but united they are powerful. By the end of the story, they’re splintered. While time has a way of healing all wounds, one has to wonder if these experiences will leave these characters forever altered. Especially Ricky.
While I read through this book, I kept being pulled back to the imagery of the bridge. The item so broken and not worth fixing, yet like an artery to the heart, it was the lifeline for both the City and the Town. Both areas have the vile behavior and evil within them. It’s just easier to deny it when the glitz and glamour of lights gives it a perceived feeling of security. In essence, they are both the same part of the broken system and the lack of desire to fix it. Even when we see a character coming into Town to revitalize it – we know his intentions aren’t good. We know he won’t fix things. He will continue to exploit them in a never-ending cycle.
A coming of age story, that while it takes a bit to get going, gives you pause when looking at the world around you. The harshness of the world in which these characters grow up is haunting. The way in which death becomes acceptable is terrifying.
I ended up with four stars because I felt it took a little long to get into the heart of the story. Once it did, things sped forward quickly.
As a side note, in my humble opinion, book covers are always a first impression to your product. They wordlessly show you what the story is about before you even read the description. Here, the book cover doesn’t really do that.