I recently found a galley site that allows bloggers, reviewers, book sellers, and librarians to request advanced reader copies digitally. I thought this might be a fun project since we did a review unit at the end of last year and learned how to write product, book, and food reviews. It would give my son a chance to sharpen his skills in this area and allow us to find some fun books to read together for reading class. Our first approved choice was The Lost Son by Tamra Torero and Preston Norton. This was published by Cedar Fort Books and seemed like a good, clean family publisher for our first choice.
I'm going to type my son's review in and then I'm going to make notes in a different font color so you know it's my thoughts not his. I thought for his first review for a publisher he did a very nice job.
The Lost Son is about a boy named Jacob who gets drunk at a party and kills Cody. Jacob then has to live with Sam, Cody's father for a month and help him at his Christmas tree farm.
The book begins at a party where Jacob is drunk and acting like a very obnoxious boy. He drives home and has an accident killing another teenager his age, Cody. Due to the problems he has caused Sam which could potentially put him out of business this Christmas, Sam asks the judge to give Jacob a chance. The judge realizes the predicament Sam is in and allows this unconventional punishment to stand. This will open the door to several opportunities for the characters in the novel to grow and change.
The things I liked
The plot and most of the characters were well thought out. The book was descriptive. The relationships didn't seem forced.
I enjoyed watching the characters each take their own personal journey that sort of came together in places and overlapped with one another's. Most of the relationships don't seem forced and there is conflict where appropriate.
The Things I didn't Like
Some of the book seemed rushed. Some of the scenes seemed sloppy by over filling the page with unimportant words then rushing more important aspects. The ending was not very well thought out and was one of the most rushed parts of the story. When you spend time investing yourself in a novel and then the ending is rushed you feel cheated at the end and that is what the reader will remember.
My son can be a pretty harsh critic when he feels wronged by his literature but he is also very accurate about the rushed ending. The last few pages feel thrown together and the reader is left to wonder what was the rush? We went on and on in parts, being over descriptive, then acted like the keyboard wouldn't allow a well thought out, well delivered conclusion that had to be rushed in fifty words or less. Especially when it begins willy nilly throwing characters together that may or may not work out but given what the reader has been led to believe about the main character's brother one can only wonder.
I'm also going to interject an adult observation, this novel seemed unable to devote itself to one perspective and do it well. I don't mean it head hopped, the writing technique in this was done well except for some heavy prose moments. I mean the writer would try to climb into the mind of a growing teenage boy and do an excellent job and then they would back out - no scramble out of it with both feet and have him thinking thoughts like a fifty year old man. The beginning party scene is probably what hooked me the most and yet, they lost that voice as the pages progressed and it wasn't from some great maturity on the character's part. It was as if they forgot they were describing things from a young man's perspective and told the story to an adult audience. This is going to be the biggest hurdle this book is going to face. It is marketed at a young adult audience and it reads as slowly in parts as the begats in the Bible would to a young person.
I watched it happen as we read this. My son would get interested, he would be hooked and they would lose him every time by hopping out of his maturity and interest level.
Overall, I would give this book three stars.
In conclusion, mom fell in love with the premise of the novel more than the way it played out. I loved the idea of a boy being held accountable for his wrong doing and being forced to see the effect his choices had made in other lives. I loved the way the book was clean and able to be shared with my thirteen year old as even our younger teens need to be aware the consequences of bad choices like drinking and driving.
I didn't love the way the prose hopped. I didn't love when the characters at times seemed to fall into a "mold" not be unique and true to themselves. I didn't like when the conversations became stilted, forced, or contrived. I really didn't like the rushing to a happy ever after ending without any development and leaving even that up to individual interpretation somewhat.
I did love sharing a mother/son book review experience, however. We look forward to doing this again at the end of next month with a different book! This was a lot of fun and it was fun to put both our thoughts on the blog and share. Be gentle, my son is still learning the fine art of reviewing but please share your thoughts with us. Do you want to see us do more of these? Does it inspire you to try this with your child? Let us know! And share a link if you try it as well!