Tattoo Atlas - Tim Floreen

A year ago, Rem Braithwaite watched his classmate Franklin Kettle commit a horrific crime. Now, apart from the nightmares, life has gone back to normal for Rem. Franklin was caught, convicted, and put away in juvenile detention for what he did. The ordeal seems to be over. Until Rem’s mother selects Franklin as a test subject for an experimental brain procedure intended to “cure” him of his cruel and violent impulses. Suddenly Rem’s memories of that day start coming back to the surface. His nightmares become worse than ever. Plus he has serious doubts about whether his mother’s procedure will even work. Can evil really just be turned off?

Then, as part of Franklin’s follow-up testing, he and Rem are brought face to face, and Rem discovers…Franklin does seem different. Despite everything, Rem finds himself becoming friends with Franklin. Maybe even something more than friends. But when another of their classmates turns up dead, Rem’s world turns upside-down yet again. Franklin insists that he’s innocent, that he’s cured, but Rem doesn’t know what to believe. Is someone else responsible for this new murder, or is Franklin fated to stay a monster forever? And can Rem find out the answer to this question before the killer, whoever it is, comes after him too?

This. Book. Is. Awesome!

I read this novel on a single train trip from Auckland to Wellington, and was enthralled the whole time. I really like Floreen's writing. I loved his first novel, Willful Machines, and I think he's able to write queer characters with a lot of nuance and respect. His pacing is swift, but his characters don't suffer development because of it.

Franklin is a beautifully complex character being manipulated by outside forces, while Rem is completely confused and doesn't quite know how to deal with the rapidly shifting world around him. His mother is keeping secrets, just like Rem, and his friends can't figure out what to do with the stories that keep spinning and changing from day to day.

I could gush and write for pages and pages about specific scenes, but instead I'll just encourage you all to read this fabulous book!

Highly Recommended

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out Oct 18, 2016)

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