From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Jeff Hastings is a good kid. He plays soccer, has nice friends, and does fairly well at his New Jersey shore high school. He has a sweet, beautiful girlfriend, Beth. The church-going Hastings look like a perfect family. However, they have a dark secret–they have another son, who is a murderer. Jeff is terrified when Troy is released from prison and horrified when his parents decide to take him in. Jeff's girlfriend leaves him, and his friends soon follow. When Jeff's teammate disappears, Troy is assumed guilty. The witch-hunt that follows ruins what's left of the teen's former life. Troy is a masterfully drawn wolf in sheep's clothing. Klass's spot-on use of ex-con stereotypes makes him extra smarmy–falsely pious, muscle-bound, and in love with the sound of his fancy new vocabulary. Jeff's frustration at his manipulation of their parents is palpable, as is his fury as his life unravels. He despises and fears Troy throughout the novel, so his loyalty at its climax seems odd, and mildly sentimental. The plot builds ferociously in tandem with Jeff's suffocating conflict and burgeoning courage. The deliciously suspenseful mood, sheltered setting, and flawed but sympathetic narrator compare to those in Kate Morgenroth's Jude
(S & S, 2004). Klass's clean, direct prose is a departure from the pained, hilarious narration of You Don't Know Me
(Farrar, 2001) but the sober style suits the gravity of the story. Recommend this fast-paced, thoughtful story to older reluctant readers, especially boys.–Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
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Gr. 8-11. Seventeen-year-old Jeff lives with his parents in a small New Jersey town, living a regular life despite his family's great secret. No one there knows that Jeff has an older brother serving a life sentence for premeditated murder. When that sentence is reversed on technicalities just five-and-a-half years in, the carefully kept family secret is released from prison and brought home to begin a new life--one that marks the end of Jeff's normal teen years. Despite outward appearances, despite his parents' great faith in their God and the essential goodness of all human beings, Jeff is certain something is fundamentally wrong with his brother. Klass tackles large issues here with varying degrees of subtlety, thoroughness, and success: unconditional love, religious faith, scientific theories of human behavior, family bonds, friendship, prejudice, fear, and the very essences of good and evil. Though readers may find the ex-convict overblown and many supporting characters little more than markers for message delivery, Jeff is both interesting and sympathetic. Holly KoellingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved