Friday, February 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Free by Lauren McLaughlin

I received this ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is February 28, 2017.

In the beginning, Isaac West stole to give his younger sister Janelle little things: a new sweater, a scarf, just so she looked less like a charity case whose mother spent money on booze and more like the prep school girls he’d see on his way to school. But when Isaac’s petty theft lands him in juvie, he’s cut off from helping Janelle. Friendless in a dangerous world of gangs and violent offenders, he must watch his every step. His sentence requires him to meet regularly for group therapy, where the inmates reenact their crimes, attempting to understand what happened from the perspective of their victims. The therapy is intense. And as Isaac works through scenes with the group, he begins to recall a memory he’d long ago repressed. A memory that changed everything. And as he begins to piece together the truth about the circumstances that shaped his life—the circumstances that brought Isaac to Haverland in the first place—he must face who he was, who he is . . . and who he wants to be.

Where do I begin with this book? So it took me a while to connect with the main character. The book is told through first person by Isaac and his time in a juvenile detention center. Isaac has a sister that he loves deeply and a mom who is a prostitute and an alcoholic so he is the only one around to take care of her. The problem is that his method of taking care of her lands him in juvie. The scenes in group therapy were intense. Isaac meets some interesting characters there and has to figure out who his friends are and who he can trust. In the beginning, he is just about doing his time and getting out of there as soon as possible. The other characters are interesting, especially the ones in his group therapy class. Eventually, Isaac realizes that he has to work the program and this is where things get a bit interesting. The memories he has of his childhood with his mom and his sister are truly heartbreaking. The group helps him to come to terms with a few repressed memories and I loved those scenes.

I guess the issue I had with this one is that there was also this subplot of Isaac's crime and this theft ring that his teacher was running and I thought it got a little too "made for TV," if you know what I mean. I also thought the ending was a bit rushed and the character development was a little forced. I thought the focus on this theft ring took attention away from Isaac's crimes and it's almost like the author was looking for some villain to place all the blame on for stuff that Isaac did. I would have much rather read a story about Isaac exploring the reasons behind his actions and even talking about the poverty that led to some of his poor decision making. And the end with his sister and his mother was just a little too neat and wrapped up. 

Parts of this book were interesting, but I just didn't think the book went deeply enough.

Borrow/Buy/Skip: Borrow this one.

1 comment :

  1. Is Isaac's crime connected to the theft ring? Just wondering because there seems to be a lacking in the connection, maybe? Hence, taking away from the meat and potatoes of the plot.