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Critically-acclaimed author Leah Thomas blends a small-town setting with the secrets of a long-ago crime, in a compelling novel about breaking free from the past.
In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence’s name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro’s citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.
Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he’s either known as the “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.
When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families’ pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?
I received a free, advanced reading copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher for the reading & reviewing opportunity.
Rating: 4 stars
This was so different from what I expected it to be but in the best way possible. I don’t even want to mumble on about what the book is about, because you can clearly read that from the synopsis. Instead, I’m going to tell you what you don’t know just from reading the synopsis.
This book has some great representation. Both of our main characters are queer (Gus is pansexual and Kalyn is a lesbian) but that’s (thankfully) never the focus of the story. They just are and it’s not some big plot twist to shake up the reader. Kalyn is open about liking girls very early on and Gus is a little confused but coming to terms with it nonetheless. There are also some other queer characters but I’m not going to ruin it all for you. In addition to this, Gus has cerebral palsy. This is definitely a part of his story line, but it doesn’t make up who he is. At least, he’s learning that. The representation just felt very realistic.
The characters are all flawed but not because of the way they were written. They are imperfect because that is just the reality of human beings. While I felt like Kalyn’s role was a bit cliche, I still liked everyone. Since this story is told through different POVs, each person really added to the story and no one really felt underdeveloped to me. Each person existed as a part of the whole story, instead of as a supporting character that simply weaves in and out conveniently.
The book is very easy to follow along with, but in the beginning, I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed. Not much happens for the first quarter of the book, but once it finally got into the good stuff, I really enjoyed the read. I was not expecting there to be any type of mystery in this, because the synopsis clearly states that one kid’s father was murdered and that the other kid’s father was the one doing the murdering. Seems pretty clear cut… right? I figured that this was going to be a story about the two of them overcoming what happened between their parents, if at all possible. You get some of that for sure, but there’s a lot more to this story, too.
The pacing was done really well besides the beginning dragging for me a bit. I really enjoyed Leah Thomas’ writing style. I can seriously appreciate her ability to switch between three very different voices and still make it all flow together well. I also love that the relationship between Kalyn and Gus was completely platonic but still so important throughout the novel.
It’s hard to review a book when you enjoyed it, but overall, I thought it was great. It is not at all what you would expect it to be, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Leah Thomas wrote a story that is completely unpredictable and I think that that is something to be treasured. If you enjoy well written contemporaries with good representation and interesting plot twists, I’d definitely recommend this to you. It’s an easy, enjoyable read. Also…. that cover!!!