Reach, The (Book)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Nate Kenyon
Published by Leisure Books
Kenyon’s first novel, Bloodstone (review), was a cool little tale of an ancient curse pursuing two desperate people at the very end of their respective ropes. It was a pretty strong debut for a young author so of course the big question was: could he do it again?
The Reach is the answer to that question and, I’m happy to say, the answer is a resounding “yes”. It’s a very different story from Bloodstone which is a good indication right off the bat the Kenyon’s a diverse writer with enough original ideas and the writing skills to see those ideas made flesh, as it were.
Since the day she was born, Sarah has never been a normal girl. Her mother was brought to a hospital late in the night, never showing any indication that she was in pain, only knowing she was giving birth. Ten years later, Sarah has been diagnosed schizophrenic and locked away in a children’s psychiatric ward. Jess Chambers, is a young psychologist, is charged with trying to get through to Sarah who, after an incident in the recent past, as retreated completely into herself and won’t open to anyone.
One of Jess’ teachers, a Professor Shelley, believes Jess has just the right amount of intelligence and casework to possibly make a difference, or so Jess is told from the outset. Unfortunately there are some doctors at this hospital who don’t want Sarah opening up too much, because they know the truth of Sarah’s condition, or what they believe is the truth, or what they believe is the truth, and know enough to be scared of what the girl can do with just the power of her mind.
What helps The Reach stand apart from other books I’ve read of late is the same that worked in Bloodstone; Kenyon’s got a great grasp on his characters and a genuine talent for breathing life into them. As we all know the more a character feels like someone we could know in real life, the more dramatic it is when those characters are put in some kind of danger. As The Reach nears its conclusion, everyone’s put in harm’s way and a good indication that The Reach is a successful sophomore effort is that you’ll find yourself actually caring about what happens to them.
Comparisons to King’s Firestarter are inevitable but should only be done with the utmost respect. Both stories feature a withdrawn child antagonist and the single adult who is attempting to give them a normal life. Though Kenyon isn’t quite the storyteller King is, he is able to convey the way a child would deal with such a bizarre and extraordinary experience in a very believable way, which goes a long way to making Sarah a believable character despite her extraordinary abilities.
Kenyon’s done a great job of balancing a story of the supernatural melding with the scientific and is able to deliver enough characters with differing viewpoints so you’re never fully comfortable with the understanding of what it is, exactly, that Sarah has. There’s a religious angle to it, mainly derived from Sarah’s terrified family, as well as a scientific approach that really contributed to the book’s only shortcoming; the technical jargon would occasionally get to a point where it seemed like Kenyon was just showing off how much research he did.
But that’s a minor grievance and something you likely won’t notice if you’re not sitting down looking to pick the book apart, anyway. The fact of the matter is that Kenyon’s done a great job following up his debut, which I hope is only the beginning of a long and diverse career for the author.
4 out of 5
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