Two brothers’ lives unravel until they are left with only each other and the lie they believe will keep them safe.
James lives with his extended family in small-town Louisiana, but following several tragedies he and his brother are soon left alone with only their mother. He’s scrawny and unpopular save for his best friend, Gabriel. Gabriel is mocked and ridiculed by peers and regarded as intellectually challenged but reads as likely being on the autism spectrum. He’s lumbering and embarrassing but a true friend, which is exactly what James needs when he comes home from school to discover his mother’s lifeless body. Gabriel hatches an outlandish and dismal plan to hide the fact that 15-year-old James and his 12-year-old brother, Danny, are now alone in their home so as to keep the brothers together and out of the foster care system. It involves hiding her body, scrounging food from garbage cans and dumpsters, and convincing a troubled and desperate woman to move into their home. The story is engrossing in the way of a train wreck, at times feeling like it teeters on the edge of exploitative with no real benefit. Trauma permeates the pages with no character left untouched. To be sure, this is a story of survival and survivors, but there is no hope to be found in it. Danny's distress is expressed in part through racist and homophobic hate speech, but these terms are not sufficiently contextualized. All main characters are white.
Relentlessly dark from start to finish. (Fiction. 14-18)