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Warning, this review is a bit of a mess because it's my very first one and there are spoilers at the end of this review so please continue reading at your own risk. At first I was reluctant to pick up this book because I saw its lack luster reviews on GoodReads and didn't want to read a book that felt overly preachy when it comes to LGBT issues (I'm certainly not a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to the topic) but because I read Ilsa's book Ashes and fell in love with it, I decided that I would try it anyways. And on top of that when I saw that my current favorite Audible narrator was performing it, I undoubtedly had to give it a chance. And I'm glad I did. Don't get me wrong, it is a very visceral and at times difficult book to sit through. Both thanks to Ilsa's unflinching and incredibly vivid attention to detail and to Nick Podehl's emotional and raw performance. I honestly think that if more people were to consume this book in audio form that it would have a much better score. Though I do understand why it probably has rubbed some people the wrong way. I'm not the type of person that flinches when it comes to violence/Gore in literature, but some of the imagery that is portrayed in this book actually gave me some pause. It left my brow furrowed as I sat there and asked myself how anyone could be so cruel to another human being simply because of their presumed sexuality. It struck me even more when I realized that this type of situation is not an entirely uncommon one in modern history. And at the same time, I can also see how this book could leave a sour taste in a Christian's and/or small town persons mouth. It makes them all out to seem very small minded and incredibly bigoted. I think we can all agree that even if most Christians actually believe homosexuality to be a sin, that they don't believe that a person is completely irredeemable or even worse, that they deserve to be killed. Those things didn't change my opinion on the book as a whole though. As stated before it's very well written and expertly narrated up until the very end. The only reason why I couldn't give it 5 stars is because in the end there is ultimately no justice for the books most tragic characters. The main character (at least in my view) never gets the closure that he needs to move on from the traumatic experience that has effectively ruined his life. He passes up going to a prestigious college and having a successful future to instead join the Marines because violence and uncertainty is essentially all he knows anymore. Which being in the sandbox certainly provides plenty of. And there is ultimately no justice for the boy that is murdered. We never even come close to finding out who his murderers are or what their true motives were (though his presumed homosexuality is the most likely reason). It actually left me feeling pretty hollow in the end. Very disappointing.
So over all I would recommend this book if you have a strong stomach and don't mind a bit of heavy subject material. Plus, it's always difficult to pass up a book written by the incredibly talented Ilsa J. Bick and equally as talented narrator Nick Podehl.