Kari's Reviews > Right Behind You

Right Behind You by Gail Giles
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's review
Jun 13, 2010

really liked it

A gutting and distinctive premise combined with a strong YA voice mixed with potent writing make Right Behind You a visceral read. This book is a perfect example of the gray areas often overlooked in any violent act, something that seems on the surface horrible and the blame easy to place. Giles does a remarkable job twisting the situation, spotlighting how there are often two victims rather than one in any violent crime.

Kip remembers setting Bobby Clark on fire when he was just nine. He remembers the events leading up to the act and he remembers exactly what triggered it. On the surface, jealousy over Bobby’s new baseball glove. Lurking deeper, a myriad of emotions and reasons that carry far past the basic act of dousing gasoline on a seven year old boy and throwing a lighter on him. Kip is a child on a very destructive path, one that keeps him in a state mental ward of juvenile offenders for four years. Unable to look past his own self hatred, bitterness and guilt, the reader starts the book wondering if Kip will find a way to make it past things. Yet, he does, soon transforming into Wade Madison in an effort to keep his sordid past hidden. With a chance to start over in a new state, it seems as though things will be alright.

Kip’s dad is another arresting part of this book, a father who’s been wrecked a few times but still pushes on. His interactions with Wade are not ones of hatred but of love, a level of emotion that is consuming at times. Carrie is equally as empowering, accepting Kip despite his past and loving him easily as her own son. Though she came into the picture after the fire, Carrie maintains a strong role throughout the book and is as memorable as Kip and his father.

Despite having a new name, Kip is still prominent, holding the strings for much of Wade’s actions. His thoughts and motivations are wrenching and breaking, coming across smoothly throughout the novel. There is no lack of a connection between Wade and the reader, forged early on as the events of the fire, his subsequent comatose state then rehab are portrayed. The book is divided into three sections, each one marking a different part of Wade’s life and recovery. Throughout the book, the overall mental voice and character remain, shifting subtly as Wade changes.

The plot is one of character development and understanding, an interesting twist on a coming of age type of story. The situations Wade finds himself in are played out very reasonably for the set up, particularly of a teenage boy who has been institutionalized for years and is now trying to hide it. His continued self destruction is hard to read but understandable, further strengthening the sympathy and emotion towards him.

A bold story line, stunning writing, and striking characters combine to make Right Behind You a quick but well worth it and emotional read. This is a book that will challenge a situation deemed on the surface as easy to interpret. The continued ramifications of Kip’s actions, even years down the road, appear throughout the book, cropping up at unexpected times but maintaining a constant state of remembrance. Overall, this is a powerful book about a boy whose biggest enemy is himself.

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