Patterson (The Peerless Four, 2013, etc.) writes about two brothers, one sensitive and decent and the other not so much.
When their parents divorce in 2001, eighth-grader Even moves with his father, Dan, a wheeler-dealer businessman, to upscale Newport Beach, California, and ninth-grader Gabe stays behind in less-affluent Rancho Cucamonga with their mother, Gina, a depressive who later finds religion with a capital R. Born only 15 months apart, the brothers have always been emotionally close though Gabe is coarse, hotheaded, and dense, while narrator Even—so nicknamed because Gabe demanded equal treatment as a small child—is smart and sensitive, as he tells the reader early on. Even, who tries not to notice that Dan’s business dealings may be questionable, is above using his father’s mysterious connections with local sheriff Matthew Krone to get out of trouble when caught smoking a little pot. Dan is the kind of father who shows his love for his kids mostly with gifts of cars and video recorders rather than quality time. While Dan takes up with rigid Republican Christian Nancy as his new “lady friend,” Even’s best friend in Newport Beach is warmhearted Christian superjock Mike. Gabe begins running with trashy Cucamonga party animals who love hanging out on the weekends at Dan’s, where there's minimal supervision. In 2003, over the July Fourth weekend, Gabe’s partying gets out of hand. Even spends the night of the Fourth at Mike’s, but later, a disturbing video of the sordid events falls into his hands—Even, and the author, play coy with the reader about what’s on the tape way too long. Even’s moral quandary concerning what to do with his knowledge of his brother’s criminal behavior should be more intriguing than his flat narration allows.
Those who gobble up social issues novels will enjoy as long as they don’t expect fresh psychological insights.