April 17, 2013

Review: Keeper of Dawn by J.B. Hickman

Title: The Keeper of Dawn
Author: J.B. Hickman
Published: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Shadeflower Press
Format: Paperback, 294 pgs

Groomed for greatness, 15-year-old Jacob Hawthorne is sent to boarding school against his will. With a self-absorbed mother, an estranged father, and an older brother on the other side of the world, only the unlikely friendship with his grandfather can lure Jacob back home. But home feels like a distant memory from the shore of Raker Island, the isolated campus of one of the Northeast's elite boarding schools. As the surrogate bonds of a cloistered all-boys school fall into place, Jacob finds himself among other sons of privilege who suffer the same affliction-growing up in their fathers' shadow. But when tragedy strikes, Jacob is forced to journey into the past to reclaim a well-guarded family secret

On the surface, J.B. Hickman's The Keeper of Dawn is a heart-wrenching story about four young men and their quest for a father's love.  But at the heart of it, the story is also about a friendship forged from desperation, brotherhood and a simple desire to just be loved. It's a gripping story -- albeit, not right from the start -- filled with an energy, youth and drama that nearly everyone can relate to.

I think the minute I knew I really liked this book was when I looked up and realized how engrossed I was in this story about four teenage boys, at an all-boy school, with all male teachers, yearning for their father's love. I mean, I'm positive that I am as far away from this book's target reader as anyone can be. And yet, the entire novel appealed to me greatly.

The deeper themes behind the story -- the die-hard friendships, the idea of having to live up to your parents' standards, the feeling that you're all alone in the world -- they're themes that everyone can relate to. Hell, they're themes I'm positive anyone reading this blog has gone through. And Hickman just does a superb job of reminding us of throughout the story, that we are all the Jacobs or the Chris' or the Dereks or the Rolands.

What I did find missing, however, was a sense of actually being drawn into the book. I always felt like an outsider looking in, rather than a part of the story. And because of this, it was hard for me to fully invest myself in all of its characters. When accidents/tragedies struck, I didn't find myself gasping or yelling aloud. I didn't find myself wanting to cry or skim the pages faster to see what happens. Instead, I would just think, "ehh, it would suck if he died."

Hickman's writing style is descriptive (you can definitely see the boy's school in your mind's eye), but it was also a bit repetitive. The characters weren't shallow, but they weren't too deep either -- I almost wish there had only been two boys so you could have ventured further into their back-stories.
There is a great twist at the end though. I should have seen it coming, but it totally flew by me, so hats off to -Hickman for that one.

I would definitely recommend The Keeper of Dawn. Read it, and let me know what you think! 

3 1/2 out if 5 stars


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