by Sonya Hartnett
From his apparent deathbed, twenty-year-old Gabriel reflects on his painful childhood, beginning with the accidental death of his brother, Vernon, by Gabriel’s own hand. A narrative that unfolds through short chapters alternate between Gabriel’s memories and those of Finnigan, a character whose very existence is never confirmed. Was he truly a wild child, demanding Gabriel’s complicity in all kinds of nefarious behavior that included a string of arsons that nearly level the town, or is he a split part of Gabriel himself, a personality that Gabriel relied on as an escape from his own guilt? With exceptionally beautiful language, Hartnett explores the human capacity for evil and self-loathing, both of which are influenced by the cruelness of adults towards their impressionable children. Love and family connectedness might be a way out for Gabriel, and his devotion to a girl named Evangeline offers the potential for peace where his own family has only caused him psychological havoc: “But to me, who came from nowhere, whose family tree spreads no further than a girl in a photograph, who glimpsed the future only through sheenless prisms of my parents, Evangeline’s history seemed a precious and extraordinary thing. I liked the way the sturdy branches of her tree life her up to the sun.” But with Finnigan’s constant shadow casting darkness and fear over all of Gabriel’s dreams, and a mother determined to ruin his life, Gabriel’s imminent death might be the greatest gift. (Age 13 and older)
CCBC Choices 2007 . © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2007. Used with permission.
"Sophisticated young readers will be awed by the delicate, measured, heartbreaking portrait that emerges." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years, which have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small, unforgiving town and distant, punitive parents ensure that he is never allowed to forget the horrific mistake he made as a child. He has only two friends - his dog, Surrender, and the unruly wild boy, Finnigan, a shadowy doppelganger with whom the meek Gabriel once made a boyhood pact. But when a series of arson attacks grips the town, Gabriel realizes how unpredictable and dangerous Finnigan is. As events begin to spiral violently out of control, it becomes devastatingly clear that only the most extreme measures will rid Gabriel of Finnigan for good.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.