Sol and his twin brother Ben grew up in an unstable home with their mentally ill mother and often absent father. After being left to live with their uncle, a night of violence has both brothers in foster care. Since it is only a few months until Sol turns 18, he ages out of the system and is on his own trying to figure out his next move. His parents, however, are looking for Sol. They kidnap him and hold him against his will, where he is forced to attend meetings of the Brethren designed to save what they claim is his wayward soul.
Months later, one night leaves him an opening and he escapes, only to be nearly run over by Seth’s car. Seth, a kind soul, brings Sol to his home, cares for him, and offers a safe environment for Sol to get back on his feet. When Sol’s parents get word that Sol is living with a man, they once again arrange for their own form of punishment. With no chance for escape, Seth may be Sol’s only hope to find his way out of the darkness.
This is a poorly written drama about attempts at religious programming and being held against your will. The romance here is secondary and extremely hard to buy into given the way it is depicted. If I had been made aware of the religious or cult like tones before selecting this book, I would have passed up front. However, this aspect of the book does not come out right away and initially it is the telling style of writing, lack of in depth characterizations, and the overall tone that did not agree with me.
The story moves from one area to the next quickly and we are told, not shown, a good portion of it. Sol moves from his uncle’s home, to foster care, to his own apartment in a matter of pages. And, although Sol’s apartment is not in the best area of town, it remains a mystery how he is able to afford it in the first place. We are told very little about his life with his parents, although it is clear Sol has never been afraid of them. His parents are not three dimensional characters, his mother’s illness is not explained well, and there is no true character building of his father. How they are able to find Sol is also not explained well. When the parents keep Sol prisoner in their home, again, much is told and not shown, so the depth of Sol’s fears are not fully realized as a reader as there is a lack of connection to him. Sol’s parents’ main motivation is them thinking that he is gay, yet Sol’s own realization that he is gay is handled in just a few passing sentences.
The name of Seth’s character is introduced on page in error before his character appears. When he does appear, there is not much we are told about him and only some basic information about his financial situation and occupation are offered. He takes a complete stranger not only into his home, but into his bed, to help Sol feel safe. After Sol stays in Seth’s house for one night, Seth tells Sol he is family, the declaration of love comes shortly after that, and there is no build to their romantic relationship. Sol spends time sitting on the floor reading and leaning on Seth while he works. Seth makes a reference to enjoying when Sol calls him, “Sir,” but again, none of that is seen. It is seemingly added in to offer another layer to the relationship that we are not shown. Sol’s brother is also another character that is not fully drawn. Their relationship is talked about somewhat, but how Ben finds Sol later in the story is not explained well and the direction of their story line left a lot of questions as well.
The dialog itself is at times both awkward and not age appropriate. Sol is 18 and Seth is described as being only a few years older. If that minor age reference to Seth had not been made, I would have thought that he was much older than Sol. They both appear to speak above their years and come off sounding much older and not like contemporary guys. One sentence starts with the word, “Leastways.” The story is set in Atlanta, yet a lot of the dialog doesn’t sound like American kids would speak. Also, Sol references the religious group asking, “Just what kind of Kool-Aid did she drink?” which is an unlikely pop culture reference for an 18-year old.
The book’s main message and what happens to Sol are serious and are supposed to be hard hitting issues. But, the style of the writing did not leave the intended impact. Seth’s message of being a good soul and helping a man in need also falls flat and lacks the intended emphasis due to the overall delivery. The romantic relationship between Seth and Sol also lacks a connection as there is not a lot of on page development of it. This book bordered on being unreadable for me and I only finished it because I had committed to review it. The style of the first few chapters immediately did not work for me and no further redemption is found by the end. This is a book that I will not recommend.