From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–When Anwell was seven, he caused the death of his developmentally disabled older brother. Several years later, he meets a boy his age, a wild child named Finnigan, and the two forge an unorthodox yet formidable bond. As this psychological thriller gracefully unfolds, Anwell–who now calls himself Gabriel, in reference to the archangel–and Finnigan take turns narrating an array of possible facts, probable lies, and half-truths. That Anwell/Gabriels parents are cold and repressive is probably true. That Finnigan ever intended to keep his promise to be Gabriels friend is patently false. Through the years of the boys adolescence, their small Australian town is plagued by arson. Anwells father gathers a vigilante troop to ward away the firebug while his son curries favor with the local cop by telling him when and where the vigilantes are headed. The boys share a hound named Surrender; he is a thief and marauder, not unlike at least one of his owners. As this stew of unhappiness, mischief, and outright criminality unwinds–apparently while young Gabriel lies on his deathbed–readers come to realize that he is schizophrenic. Whether his avenging efforts truly come to murder, in the form of patricide, isnt crystal clear. But it doesnt need to be: the plot is relentless, just as Finnigans efforts to torture Gabriel and Gabriels efforts to quell Finnigan appear to be in the end.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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Gr. 9-12. In the small, desolate town of Mulyan, a well-behaved young boy plays with a toy car atop the fence rail surrounding his front yard. A very different sort of boy--sunbaked, unkempt, and vaguely dangerous--appears on the street side of the fence to scratch his name in the wood and taunt the young boy to move beyond his boundaries. So begins the eerie relationship between Gabriel and Finnegan: the first, an isolated and disturbed child in a profoundly dysfunctional family with an ugly history; the second, a cruel and destructive yet wildly freeing force. The two determine to be each other's reflection: one all good, the other all bad. Together they share dark secrets, make plans, and experience a pure love for Surrender, Gabriel's adopted hound. Told retrospectively from the deathbed of 20-year-old Gabriel, this is a potent and disquieting psychological tale. Given its complex vocabulary, troubling characters, and grim content, this is a book for older teens willing to experience some of humanity's bleaker aspects. Holly KoellingCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved