Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Right Behind You - Gail Giles

Redemption is often confused with forgiveness. To redeem yourself you must change, become stronger; sometimes you must make amends if you have caused harm. Forgiveness - well, I have my own views on forgiveness.

Kip McFarland is living with a painful secret: when he was nine, he set Bobby Clarke on fire. And Bobby died.

After four long years in a juvenile ward, Kip is rehabilitated. He's got a new "perfect" life. But no one knows he's got a past. No one knows about the nightmares and the guilt that torture him. They don't even know his real name.

What do you do when your past catches up with you again and again? When the journey to salvation always leads to a dead end? When the person you're most afraid of, the person you'd move anywhere to yourself?

Let me start out by saying that I was prepared to hate this book. I have very strongly held opinions on certain things, and one of them is that it's completely unforgiveable for someone to murder a child, even if the perpetrator was a child himself. I often cling to my beliefs and stubbornly refuse to be swayed, even, I'm ashamed to admit, when someone can logic me out of them. This book shook my beliefs.

I found myself becoming so sympathetic to Kip/Wade, even if I didn't want to. There were extenuating circumstances, of course, that made Kip's act slightly different than one that might be committed by a truly sociopathic kid in training. Kip was intending to destroy something when he did it, and the fact that the victim caught fire was not intended. Does that make the act any easier to forgive or forget? No. Does it make it more excusable? No. Does it make it all right? No. But it does make the resulting journey to redemption more believable and desired.

Kip/Wade spends his years after emerging from juvenile, moving around with his family, as, just because the doctor's say he's rehabilitated, the angry public do not agree. He takes on a new name, a new home, and must begin his life again battling the guilt and shame of what he did. If his journey were portrayed as anything less than grueling and remorseful, it wouldn't have been as easy to forgive him and begin to root for him. The author handles this progression through Kip's many stages of growth so thoroughly and well, that by the time the end comes, you are fully in Kip's corner.

Kudos to Ms. Giles for tackling such a difficult topic. A short Q&A is at the back of the book, in which she stated that she had received so much hate mail, mainly from outraged adults, regarding this book. The fact that she had the courage to tell such a controversial story in the face of such disapproval is great, because I would not have wanted to miss this book.

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