Key (Alabama Moon, 2006, etc.) has crafted another powerful, riveting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t stint on violence to advance the action.
Middle schooler Foster and his mother have been barely getting by since his father’s death a year ago. The farm in Fourmile, Ala., is going to ruin around them without a man’s help, and now Mother has begun a relationship with dangerous, unpleasant Dax, a man she seems powerless to keep from abusing both Foster and his dog, Joe. Then Gary shows up, hiking along the rural road. He's a young man with a secret past but is nevertheless kind, hardworking and ultimately heroic. Foster, desperate to find some steady ground in his life, connects to Gary immediately, even though in his heart he’s aware that whatever is in Gary’s past likely dooms the relationship. After Foster’s mom spurns him, Dax begins an escalating and tragic campaign of retaliation. Foster’s first-person voice is richly authentic as he gradually acquires the wisdom that will eventually lead him to a believable though heart-wrenching resolution to some of the crushing conflicts in his life. Confrontations between Dax and Gary are vivid and violent enough to disturb some readers, the violence expertly serving to define yet distinguish their characters.
Deeply moving and fast-paced, this life-affirming effort is a worthy addition to the bookshelves of sturdy readers. (Fiction. 12 & up)