On his seventh birthday, I set Bobby Clarke on fire.
I was nine.
Kip McFarland is living with a painful secret. The ghosts of his past are screaming out for justice, and he has to tell someone. But how can he tell anyone that he really is - or was - a murderer?
Star swimmer, loyal friend, and good-looking, too. "Perfect" - that's how Kip's friends describe his life. But no one knows that he's got a past. No one knows that he's seen what nightmares are made of, or that he spent four long years in a juvenile ward. No one knows that his best friends were hardened criminals. His new friends don't even know his real name.
What do you do when your past catches up with you again and again? When the person you're most afraid of, the person you'd move all over the country to escape...is yourself?
(Summary from jacket flap)
The first person I heard about this book from was Ely. And I have to give her eternal thanks for recommending it. But why has no one else read this? It came out in 2007...not that long ago. If you haven't read this, let me just start out by saying, you should. It's amazing.
The novel focuses on Kip/Wade. After his mom dies from cancer (before the book starts), he and his dad are left to live by themselves in the Alaskan bush. Kip is home schooled, he doesn't have a ton of contact with other kids, his dad isn't getting along that well financially, etc. He's a bitter guy. So when Bobby Clarke stops by to show off the fancy-looking baseball glove he got for his birthday, Kip sloshes gasoline on him and lights him on fire. Afterwards, Kip goes into a coma, doesn't talk for months, and is placed in a home for the young and mentally unstable.
It was such a great, dramatic beginning for the story. I was immediately hooked. It's not everyday that you read a book about a child murderer. It's really far out of the ordinary.
The plot twists and writing style sort of follow the lines of "shock and awe". You get all this drama, trauma, and craziness thrown in your face and you have to make of it what you will. The good part about that is that it's done in a very classy and smooth way. The events in Wade's*** life after the "incident" are all very believable and true to the real-world. Maybe the specific event that this book is based around has never happened (at least I think it hasn't), but if it did, I wouldn't find it hard to believe that what happened in this book would happen in that circumstance.
The characters, relationships, and writing add to the awesomeness even more. Wade grew and transformed throughout the book. He learned to love himself, his dad, his stepmom, and the world he lived in. I am in total awe of Gail Giles for being able to write this book through a guy's point of view and pull it off so convincingly. It worked really well.
Plus, the message of the story is really deep and intellectual.
""Here's how it goes. The ghost has the truth set out in front of him in a bowl, all ready for him to eat. And he's screaming for it, he's so hungry. But the only thing he has to eat it with is a long spoon. His arms are too short for him to get the truth into the spoon and then into his mouth. So he finds another ghost with the same problem and they sit across from each other and..."
"Feed each other," I whispered."
Yeah. That's DEEP. With all the context surrounding that passage, I got shivers when I read it.
Also, I am super glad I read this book at this point in time because for the application to get into Honors English next year, you have to write an essay on how the author of a book you read recently used a literary element to demonstrate their views on human nature. This book couldn't fit more perfectly.
So thank you soooo much to Ely for recommending this. And please, please, please read this if you haven't already. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year, hands down.