Readers of Omorphi by Cody Kennedy will remember the fragile yet determined Christy and his devoted boyfriend, Michael. They will remember how Christy has steadily grown in strength and courage over the past year he has been at Wellington, where he meets with Rob, his therapist, and paints out his painful memories of abuse and torture one canvas at a time. Picking up where Omorphi leaves off, this latest novel, Tharros, finds Michael, Christy, Jake, and Sophia all recovering in the hospital after rescuing Christy from Josef—the evil bastard who held Christy for so many years while he abused him beyond comprehension. But Josef has been captured and the Greek authorities have also been busy—both countries are set to try the man for his crimes against not only Christy, but so many other boys as well.
The story takes us through the final weeks before prom and graduation. Much is at stake for all of our heroes as they face both the impending trial and various high school milestones—including the all important USATF tryouts that will determine if Michael can keep his scholarship to attend Oxford in the fall with Christy. Surely such commonplace activities such as prom and graduation should be rather standard as they go on every year in many a high school in every state in the nation and yet…there is nothing mundane about this novel. Every page is richly detailed with all the thoughts and emotions that Michael experiences while with Christy.
From Michael’s perspective, we experience what it is to want to heal the one we love so much that every moment with them is one careful decision after another. Each is calculated to remind Christy that he is not the sum of his past—of what has been done to him, but rather there is so much yet to be discovered about who he is and how beautiful he is inside. Michael surrounds Christy with reminders of how brave he is so that he can survive those “faraway” episodes where Christy turns inward and tunes out the world when the pain and fear become too much. Michael often stumbles and berates his inability to always be aware of the pitfalls that can snare his sweet boyfriend at any moment. Simple things like being touched, loud noises, being onstage in front of large crowds—all of these are triggers that spring out of nowhere to engulf Christy and render him paralyzed in fear.
However, this story is also replete with magical moments—first prom, riding a ferris wheel up high, kisses and affection, victims healing and returning to school where friends surround them all. In the end of this part of the saga, there is also redemption—and a mysterious person from the past whose impact on Christy, Sophia, and Michael remains to be seen. The final chapter in this series, Elpida, will lay many questions to rest and no doubt be just as fraught with tension and excitement as Tharros has been.
But what really sets this novel apart? Why continue reading the story of a cruelly abused Greek boy who struggles daily with healing from such a horrific past of abuse and torture? Why these characters? Why this story? I could say to you that this remarkable novel reaches beyond the idea of abuse and exposes the appalling lack of aftercare and justice available for abuse victims—in particular, male abuse victims. While the system struggles to addresses the sexual trafficking of girls, it is barely present for those young males who are trapped in this horrible world of slavery and abuse. Tharros, like Omorphi before it, turns a bright light on a social welfare system that fails to recognize the need for after care for abused boys and strengthen the judicial system so that the culprits can be brought to justice. The mere fact that author Cody Kennedy could truthfully write about the idea that the victim is the one who is most damaged at trial—who is made to experience their abuse and torture all over again as insensitive prosecutors parade it in front of them is reprehensible to say the least. We are a society who throws away our youth without hesitation—particularly those who are abused—male and female alike. This truth is no doubt one of the foremost reasons novels like Tharros are vital. It is so important we are reminded that work on behalf of those who have been discarded and broken is paramount if we are a society who claims to care for it’s own.
But there is more, for beneath the social overtones of this novel lurks a breathtaking story of love and healing. Despite the pain, despite the nightmares, Christy is a survivor who has finally been able to experience the love of another boy—someone who would give his very life to ensure Christy is never hurt again. Author Cody Kennedy continues his weeping saga of a life that has been saved—a life that has risen from the ashes like the phoenix it is and survived to tell the tale. Kennedy has created an indomitable spirit in Christy—one that will not be broken despite all the horror he has experienced. Kennedy has given us a novel of hope…of love…of courage…tharros.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.