We'll Fly Away - Bryan Bliss

Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

This book is a lot of things. It is difficult to read, but it is worth reading for some many reasons. Bliss's narrative is like a well-intentioned punch in the gut (if that makes any sense... it does to me...)

We'll Fly Away is about love and family, hopefulness and hopelessness, friendship and sex, crime and consequences. Above all, though, this book is a plea to remember that a person is more than their worst action. Luke is in jail, on death row, and while readers don't know why until the last pages of the novel, his letters to Toby explore his own attempts to come to terms with the terrible choice that landed him in prison.

In the present-day portion of the narrative, readers witness the slow deterioration of Toby and Luke's friendship, as well as their respective relationships with new people in their lives (girls, coaches, new step-parents, etc.) Toby's relationship with his father is toxic and full of abuse, but there are things that help him get through the days, even as Luke's feelings of protectiveness create feelings of hostility between the two. 

There is so much to savour, feel, and consider within the pages of this book. Thank you to Bryan Bliss for his words and for the power of this narrative and the voices of the two narrators.

Recommended

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out May 2018)

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