Overall, this was a solid book. 4/5 stars.
Triumph or tragedy? For seventeen-year-old Nash, the summer was both.
At first, leaving his friends in Portland to live in the woods seemed like a horrible idea. Who lives without television, video games, and the internet? But, with patience and guidance from his grandfather, the beauty of nature casts its spell, and Nash flourishes like the garden under his care.
But when Nash is arrested and accused of murder, he is paralyzed by fear and doubt. Did he make the biggest mistake of his life? He must decide whether to tell the truth about what happened, or say nothing and let a jury decide.
Tales of Nash is a story about the fragile bonds of family, the tragedy of loss, and the triumph of hope.
My thoughts: I love the then/now alternating chapters. (Huh, almost like in my upcoming book). It helps add to the tension by creating uncertainty and conflict, while helping reveal the character development. Similarly, I loved the short chapters and the quick pace. I love that, unlike many mental health books, there is no love/romance that Cures the Protagonist. The dialogue, which I normally would not have loved (lacked tags and actions, and instead consisted just of the spoken words) somehow worked really well. This is a testament to the author, as hard as it is to do.
The portrayal of mental illness, especially substance abuse, was artfully done. We see many of the tenets of such issues in the book. These included the familial links, the cycles of unsupportive parenting, and denial of problems by those affected. The triggers– including friends who also use, boredom, coping with emotional issues, etc– were both accurate and felt realistic. Like those who fall into addiction, there was no one moment where Nash “became addicted” but rather a series of intensifying decisions that start with innocent curiosity.
Similarly, the exploration of PTSD, including the nightmares, withdrawal, and occasional flashbacks, was realistic without being overdone. Similarly, the issues of addiction and PTSD feel important to the story, but were not the only drivers of plot and characterization. This leaves the reader with round, dynamic characters that we can root for even while they make mistakes.
There was also the exploration of other issues, which I won’t go into in order to not spoil the ending, that have been controversial recently. I appreciated this as well.
I didn’t give this 5 stars, as well done as the book is, because I thought it was solid, but not The Best Ever. Things I wish were different:
- The title. I love the cover but the title doesn’t do the book justice
- More resolution. I’m all for an open ending, but it felt a little incomplete. Mostly, I would have liked a hint that Nash was going to make better friends, actually study for the GRE, and have a new goal besides just staying sober. I didn’t need to see this play out but even an ending scene where he runs into someone and starts up a conversation, or opens the GRE documents and starts on them, or starts looking up schools, would have gone a long way.
- Indeed, I think part of what made this book not quite a 5 is that there is plenty of conflict and tension, but I wish I knew more of what Nash actively wanted, besides Not going to jail and Not being addicted. What does he like to do? What dreams/goals does he have now?
All in all, a solid read with great depictions of PTSD and addiction.