This review is spoiler-free!
In a single night—graduation night—Thomas has to decide: Do what everyone has always expected of him? Or forge an entirely new path? Bryan Bliss’s absorbing examination of one boy struggling with expectations and realities will appeal to readers of Sara Zarr and Chris Crutcher.
Thomas is supposed to leave for the army in the morning. His father was Army. His brother, Jake, is Army—is a hero, even, with the medals to prove it. Everyone expects Thomas to follow in that fine tradition. But Jake came back from overseas a completely different person, and that has shaken Thomas’s certainty about his own future. And so when his long-estranged friend Mallory suggests one last night of adventure, Thomas takes her up on the distraction. Over the course of this single night, Thomas will lose, find, resolve, doubt, drive, explore, and leap off a bridge. He’ll also face the truth of his brother’s post-traumatic stress disorder and of his own courage. In Bryan Bliss’s deft hands, graduation night becomes a night to find yourself, find each other, find a path, and know that you always have a place—and people—to come back to.
Right off the bat, I can say this was something of a middle-of-the-line read for me. Nothing special, nothing too exciting. Too focused on the girl even though she had little to nothing to do with the real matter at hand and without enough closure to anything for me to be happy with the ending.
I did enjoy Bliss’ writing, though. Even when the plot wasn’t my thing (and even then, it was only really the Mallory parts because hello manic pixie dream girl syndrome, if only somewhat), I did find myself liking Bliss’ writing. I think I just expected more out of the plot, which might be on me, since this book all happens in one night.
Which, was cool! Probably my favorite part, actually, that everything was crammed into one crucial, pivotal night where so much hung on the line that was attached to the next morning.
I also really liked the small-town vibe of it, since it does take place in a small town. I don’t come from a small town (I’ve lived in two cities — one a very populated suburb of DC/Baltimore and the other a stretched out bedroom community that only sometimes mimicked a small town due to the sheer distance it took to get anywhere before the population exploded), so I can’t necessarily say how realistic it is, but I love books that have the small town vibe, and I don’t have the experience to be picky about what a book does or doesn’t do with that vibe. It definitely helped solidify Jake, the main character’s, struggle, however, because everyone knew his brother and his affiliation with the army, so running away was like walking off stage in front of a crowd of people who already had expectations on what you were going to do.
I just… really hated Mallory. Like, not even her as a character, but the way Jake was about her. She didn’t try to be manic pixie, but he sure tried to view her as one, and that drove me up the wall. Nix the manic pixie dream girl shit, please! You can make your own decisions, never make them based on someone else! Which, looking back… was literally Jake’s problem to start. Hm.
(Also, the ending. Was not thrilled with the ending. It had potential, but then just fell flat for me.)
So, yeah. Middle road book for me, with its three stars!
Thanks for reading!