I am way jumping the gun, here, because I could not stop myself from reading Setting Free the Kites by Alex George almost as soon as it walked in the door. It was by far my most anticipated read of 2017 (you can tell me what to look forward to, now -- I may need help) and I was frankly shocked when I was offered an ARC. And, darned if I didn't absolutely fall in love with the book. I will probably reread it closer to the release date, which is currently February 21, 2017, but I don't want to wait till then to review. You should definitely pre-order a copy. Trust me, it's one you don't want to miss.
Setting Free the Kites tells the story of a friendship between two middle school boys named Robert and Nathan. Robert has been tormented by an oversized bully for an entire school year and the first day of the new school year appears to be an omen of another bad year to come, until the new boy steps in. Nathan is fearless and relentlessly upbeat, a bit of a daredevil and full of life. Robert and Nathan become friends, then tragedy strikes, bringing them even closer. Meanwhile, at home Robert faces an entirely different challenge. While Nathan's days are difficult yet carefree and filled with acts of daring, Robert's family ignores him and approaches every holiday with the fear that it will be their last with Robert's brother Liam, who has a degenerative disease. Robert's friendship with Nathan is both an escape and a time of laughter and fun like he's never known, before.
I don't want to go into too much more detail because it's best to let the story unfold, but Setting Free the Kites is a book that I could hardly bear to put down. I found myself immediately drawn in by the characters and their stories, the friendship between Robert and Nathan, the way music featured in their lives, the family situations, even the setting in Coastal Maine. But, I think what I loved the most was the subject of grief. Tragedy runs through these two young lives and what I thought the author did best in this particular book was in describing grief as a very personal experience, his portrayal of how the same loss is handled in completely different ways by different people. That was so very true to my own experience; and, since writers often get grief all wrong, I appreciated the realistically varying reactions. But, don't worry, it's not all heartbreak, by any means. That was just one of my favorite aspects of Setting Free the Kites and it is, in the end, a beautiful, uplifting story of life and hope and sometimes surprisingly offbeat and funny.
I neglected to mark any quotes to share, although I can assure you the writing is just gorgeous. That will be something to watch for if I do reread it in January. And, in case you're wondering about that beautiful cover, there is an amusement park that features in the book, hence the ferris wheel bokeh. I'm in love with that cover.
Highly recommended - An absolutely engrossing tale of family, friendship, youth, love, and loss. Could. Not. Put. Down. It reminded me, now and then, of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth in that sometimes ordinary, everyday events came off as so much more interesting than you might expect.
And, now, I've read two 5-star books in a row! I'm almost terrified to open the next book, for fear it cannot possibly live up to Setting Free the Kites or My Family and Other Animals (yesterday's review). Wish me luck. I haven't chosen my next reads.
My review of Alex George's previous release: A Good American
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