Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review: We'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

We'll Fly AwayTitle: We'll Fly Away
Author:  Bryan Bliss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publishing Date:  May 8th, 2018
Pages: 416
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series:  Stand Alone
Source:  Audio

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.
But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña.

I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I started this book. Ash had it added months ago and once I read the synopsis I added it to my TBR. Then I didn’t think about it again until release day. I had it pre-ordered on Audible and jumped right in once it downloaded. I am very picky about my contemporary reads, especially in YA contemporary reads. Not because they aren’t good, but because I no longer have issues that revolve in the YA world. This book though, it didn’t feel like YA world problems. It felt like world problems. This was a devastating story and it stole my heart. I cried much, I laughed some, I attached all the way.

This story belongs to Luke and Toby. Two best friends that grew up in a hard world. They live in a pretty small town and they are poor. One has a lousy mother and young twin brothers he has to help support, the other has a crap father that beats him. Through everything, they have a dream. To get out of this rat hole town and do something with there life. They are both pretty on track. Luke is a star wrestler and has a scholarship. He plans to bring Toby with him and he knows they will figure out once they get there. Everything seems to be looking up. That is until two girls enter the picture. One is a girl that steals Luke’s heart, Annie. She lives in his building and she is just right for Luke. The other is an older waitress at the local bar that Toby’s father frequently visits. This one steals Toby’s heart. She is not right for Toby. She is nothing but trouble and this trouble causes a rift between the two best friends and their lives go down the crapper.

Well, this book was tough. I kind of knew where it was leading. Not all the terrifying details or the end exactly but there are facts at the beginning that spill out a little feel for the story. Luke is on death row and he writes letters to Toby. So to start with it’s a bit of a downer. Of course, it is not known yet why Luke is in prison, what he did exactly, but he’s on death row so really there isn’t that many things that lead to death row. The why and who is the bigger question.

The story is told in two styles, present told in letter form from luke to toby and it alternates to the past being told in story form both Toby's and Luke’s POV. Things come out slowly and the story unfolds. It’s at a great pace, leaving the big questions to be answered, slow enough to really get to know and connect to the characters and their individual stories, and fast enough to not be in agony as you wonder what happened. My favorite type of stories are those that are told in dual timelines, flipping back and forth. I feel there is much suspense and satisfaction as things come to surface. This one for sure suspenseful and satisfying. The writing was beautiful and the story was just sad. I mean sad isn’t a strong enough word, heart-wrenching, devastating, earth-shattering. Yup one of those kinds of reads, get the tissues.

There are some triggers in this book for abuse. I am able to get through these but it was hard. It’s a dark story with a lot of bad stuff. It’s a beautiful story too and the abuse was handled quite well. This subject is probably the hardest for me to get through. It’s not just abuse, it’s child abuse. I just want to put it out. It was very hard at times to get through. There is also no happy ending in this book. I am not always up for that kind of tales, but this one was worth the read. I endured because there is so much real in this book. Its real and raw and the characters are flawed and it's messy and gritty and dark. But so beautiful. There is love and true friendship. It felt like real life.

The characters were amazing in this book. Like I said earlier they were flawed, but they were also loveable. Oh how I felt for them. Lucas and Toby, both of them born into families that struggle that have their issues. From the beginning these two had to fight for who they were, what they had, and where they wanted to be. Their lives were not easy. Toby was a bit harder to love at times because he was one that was more hopeless. He was the one getting beat, so I understood. What he endured, what he held on to. His strength. That made him loveable. I can’t say he was full of good choices though. He wanted to be loved so badly, he did everything he could to find it.

Lucas was more the fighter and the protector. He had a lousy mother, a father that skipped town five years ago, and two twin brothers he had to parent because his mother was unable. He also took care of Toby. He protected him as much as possible. He was there for him and he loved him. He worked hard. He was on his way to a better future. His choices weren’t always good either, but for the most part, he always did what he felt he had to do and it was for the right reasons. Most of the time.

Annie by far was my favorite charcter. There wasn’t much of a look into her life, but she was on her own most of the time beucase her father was a trucker. So she took care of herself and was basically on her own. She was so warm and caring. She was funny and a little snarky. She was strength and softness all in one. I actually loved her relationship with Lucas. This romance was sweet and not volatile.

So in a nutshell or not so much in a nutshell. This is a story of family, love, friendship, loss, failure, choices, darkness, and heartac

Very heart wrenching read and I loved it. 

Bryan Bliss

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He holds master’s degrees in theology and fiction and – shockingly – found a professional job that allows him to use both of those degrees. His political philosophy degree, however, is still underutilized. His nonfiction has been published in Image Journal, along with various other newspapers, magazines, and blogs. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children, both of whom wish he wrote books about dragons. Or wizards.

You can visit him online at and on Facebook and Twitter.

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