Jim Thomsen's Reviews > Reality Check

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
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Jul 03, 10

Read in May, 2010

I'm a big fan of Peter Abrahams' lean, tight, fast-paced Young Adult thrillers. He's got the master's effortless gift of developing character and setting along the ride, and as such, "Reality Check" (much like "Bullet Point") is the kind of book you find yourself wanting to read again in a few years to rediscover its old surprises and pick up a few new ones you might have missed the first time.

Like "Bullet Point," this story starts as the tale of a disaffected small-town athlete who decides he has to hit the open road to find himself — and, hopefully, somebody else who matters to him. In this case, it's Clea, his estranged girlfriend, who disappears while at a posh Vermont prep school. Cody blunders plausibly into one clue after another until a murky picture emerges about Clea's fate — a fate that could befall him if he doesn't put together the pieces fast enough.

Like "Bullet Point," too, the third act ratches up into fantastical territory, as it strains belief here and there to find murderous small-town conspiracy lurking behind every seemingly innocuous small-town facade. But that's a small quibble, and one easily quashed by the momentum of the thrill ride as the reader breathlessly turns pages in anticipation of how Cody will extricate himself from the worst mess of his life.

A wise writer once said that every good story boils down to this: "Put your character into messes, get them out, put them back in, make them worse. Lather, rinse and repeat." Peter Abrahams understands this better than most. And that he does so while developing believable characters we come to care about in settings we can empathetically sink into makes him worthy of the highest praise I have to give.

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