By Chris Raabe
published Oct. 2011
Every teenager wants to fit in, and Christian Pearson is no different. He is a phenomenon on the athletic field and in the classroom, but a terrifying accident on a fishing trip with his grandfather changes Christian's life forever. As he enters his freshman year of high school, Christian hides a secret that he plans to take to his grave. When the Pearson family moved from the city to the sleepy town of Red Oak, Iowa, before his freshman year of high school, Christian hoped for a smooth transition to small town life. Being the new kid in school has been a blessing and a curse. Most of the boys in Christian's class view him as a threat, so Christian struggles to fit it, but as an outcast, his secret is safe. When three freshmen, all from the same family, start school a week late, Christian senses something different about these new students. He reaches out to "The Three" seeking some semblance of friendship in his new hometown. When "The Three" confront Christian about the secret he hides, Christian is faced with a huge problem. Will this secret cost Christian his friends, his family, his freedom, and even his life?
There are many things I really enjoyed about Christian and his journey. I love that Christian has a loving family, it's always nice to see that. I love that he has a temper though he tries to control it. I loved that he notices the girls, but he isn't a leering pig.
I'll be honest, I was a little hesitant to start this as it contains 2 things that I don't connect with - high school and football. I enjoyed my time in high school, but my experience wasn't the drama-filled overly-cliquish one that is normally portrayed and I tire of it. I just want them to portray some of the kids as nice. Raabe is able to strike a really good balance - there are some jerks, but there's more than one nice friend. It felt real to me, which is refreshing.
Despite my complete antipathy toward almost anything to do with football, the story never really got bogged down with it. Raabe kept it down to a few paragraphs or maybe a page (I might confess to skimming through some of it, though) - enough to let us know he knows what he's talking about, enough that football fans would enjoy it (I think), but not so much that the rest of us are tearing our hair out.
After the very first chapter, it might feel a little slow, but there's still a tension building. Plus, it serves to set the scene for where it really picks up - once "The Three" show up. The pace quickens fast here, and here is where I was surprised to find that I had a hard time putting it down. Once I hit this spot I finished it within a day.
I loved the mystery, the characters were fleshed out and easily distinguishable (which is harder to do than you might think without making it a caricature), there were some twists (some I guessed, others I didn't), and the ending was a great setup for the sequel that I hope comes out sometime soon!
I would give this 7/10 stars
*This book was given by the author in exchange for an honest review*
On an end note, I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the books I've gotten to review. I was nervous about having to find something nice to say, but I haven't ever had to strain. So, here's to the talented and brave souls out there working on their books - don't give up!