I’ve been reading enough lately that I think the Saturday book review will become a regular thing from now on. I don’t know that I’ll have one EVERY Saturday, but at least for a while I should have enough books to fill it up. Anyway!

This is another Story Plant book, that I have received an ARC for in exchange for my honest review.

From the book jacket:

This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He’d fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they’d do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he truly didn’t understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

I don’t commonly incorporate the entire description from the blurb in my reviews, but the wording of this one struck me as important to how I approached the book. Just from the description, I can get a decent idea of what the book probably reads like. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a boy and his dog, and then his idyllic small-town life is flipped on its head by Drama and Mayhem. Fair enough. Classic story, one that’s been done to death but still manages to stay interesting. I was game. Nervous, but game.

See, when I see sentences like “the accident that shook the entire town,” I start getting suspicious about the plot. Too often we see something like this and the ENTIRE TOWN stops on a dime to obsess about this tiny detail that happened to some 17-year-old kid. Having grown up in a small town, yes–I can say that it certainly would have been noticed, but that doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly knows and judges. (Shuuuuuun.) So while hopeful, I approached the book with trepidation.

I worried in vain.

Manchester’s writing takes an easy edge with the catastrophe–showing that it’s affecting the town while it destroys the young men involved. It takes young love, complicates it believably, and makes it work out exactly as one might expect. And it takes that gripping fear of graduation and “what on Earth am I supposed to do with my life” and spins it exactly how we likely all lived it.

Billy is incredibly likable and believable in both his strengths and his flaws. His relationship with Jimmy, his aging shelter mutt, is well-rounded just like any other interpersonal relationship in the book. His struggle with seeing his friends all have definite plans for the future, and not knowing what he wants to be when he grows up is familiar. And the conflict between Billy and his friends Charlie and Mark is incredibly real and painful.

The story moves at the relatively quick pace of a classic YA/coming-of-age story, but for once I didn’t mind it. There was neither anything I felt got rushed (even the romance subplot flowed nicely) nor parts I thought were drawn out too long. It ended exactly the way I felt it should (though I have hopes and feelings about the conclusion of the Vicki arc) and spared nothing.

A genuine feel-good book, even with the darkness at its core. Well-written and evocative, Manchester has bottled the feeling of limbo between high school and college–childhood and adulthood–and trapped it within 276 of literary magic. And if the ending doesn’t at least tap the slightest bit at the same feelings that the end of Toy Story 3 did, I’m not sure where you’ve hidden your heart. Absolutely a book to check out.

Rating: **** – Recommended

The Changing Season will hit shelves this Tuesday, February 23, 2016.


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