Reason for reading: This book was provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. The thoughts expressed in this review are mine, and I receive no benefit from giving a good review.
I was pleasantly surprised by this little book. Not that I expected bad things from it, but I didn’t expect to be caught up in the action. Brouwer has worked in some interesting action scenes right at the beginning of the story, and by the time the action has slowed to a pace more suited for plot and character development, I was already quite interested in the book. I read it in only a couple of sittings. This would be an excellent book for boys in the 5th or 6th grade age range, even though the main character is 17.
Fanda at Fanda Classiclit has organized a weekly blog event in which we can provide a detailed character analysis of a book that we’ve been reading. I thought I’d try my first character analysis out on Webb. I thought he’d be an interesting character to start with because his identity is developing throughout the story. The following information will contain more details than I usually provide in my review, but I’ll try not to include any plot-vital spoilers.
When Webb was 5th grade-ish, his widowed mother remarried a man who was abusive to Webb, but apparently not to Webb’s mother. So Webb was manipulated and threatened into keeping the abuse a secret. Eventually, at maybe 16 or 17, he ended up living on the streets. This is where he was when his grandfather died and the adventure begins.
Because of the abuse in Webb’s past, he adopted a protective role for other victims of abuse. At the beginning of the story, he saw a young woman being beaten by her boyfriend, and in order to defend her, he ended up in a fight with this very dangerous man.
At first blink, you’d see Webb’s behavior as “good.” He was using his own experience to help a woman in trouble. But soon you find out that as Webb gets angrier and angrier, he loses his logic…he wants to seriously hurt this man. A rational part of his brain says that seriously hurting people in self defense isn’t necessary, but that rational part of his brain isn’t working once his rage has fired up. So Webb is a protector of the weak, but he’s also teetering on the brink of violent, hateful jerk himself. The identity crisis that Webb struggles with throughout the book is where to draw the line between protector and wrathful avenger?
Webb didn’t think that his grandfather knew about Webb’s troubles. But his grandfather is more astute than Webb expected. Webb was left with two Nietzsche quotes to ponder during his hiking trip in the Northwest Territories. The first was: That which does not kill us makes us stronger. The second was: He who fights with monsters must take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
Webb had already experienced and accepted the meaning of the first quote. But he was puzzled by the second quote. It made him question what he was becoming…whether he needed to become that…and what the alternatives were.
Webb’s identity crisis was, granted, quite straightforward and clearly-laid-out for the readers. That’s because this book was written for 5th graders, who aren’t as attuned to subtlety as they will be as adults. I think Webb’s identity crisis allows someone of the appropriate reading age to learn something new about how the world affects their personalities…and how their personalities can affect the world. Thus, Web was a fascinating character, and I’m happy I met him. 🙂