Sunday, January 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Surviving Michael

On a hot summer's day, after their final school exams, five boys begin a game of dares in which one of them, Michael, will not survive. Fifteen years later, his four friends, Nick, Charlie, Danny and Liam, now in their thirties, have yet to truly come to terms with what happened that day. 

Then on the anniversary of Michael’s death, they begin the game of dares again. Only this time the dares are bolder, and the consequences more severe. Over one weekend, their game spirals out of control, and forces them, for the first time, to deal with the guilt of surviving Michael. 

Surviving Michael is a gritty, poignant, dark but often funny, coming of age story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.


This book shows its readers all the things we shouldn't do as children, but the thing is, that's what makes a child a child.  Who hasn't made dares with their childhood friends?  Little stupid things you think will be funny to see if one of your friends has the balls to actually go through with it.  You remember being a kid, right?  Well that's exactly what these knucklehead little boys did.  Picture standing at the top of a pier or a bridge, if you will, and one of your friends wants someone to jump off the side to see who is the bravest.  Of course, when the little boys look over the side, they can easily tell it's quite a drop.  Now, it appears that no one wants to try this dare.  But there's always this one kid who is the strongest of the bunch that keeps egging his friends to "try it."  Isn't it funny how the one that wants you to do something, is never the one to actually try it himself.

So, when there aren't any takers, what do you suppose happens?  Oh yeah, a little thing called an "accident."  One of the boys is playing around and accidentally pushes Michael off the pier and over the side he goes.  As he's falling, screaming and crying out for his life, he sees his friends' faces displaying the look of utter shock and terror as Michael is trying to cling to what little life he has left.  He hits the water hard cutting through it like trying to butcher a stubborn bone of chicken.  His friends see him go below the surface of the raging water and then resurface again, and as they panic trying to figure out what to do, one of them decides to jump in after him, because it is then realized that Michael cannot swim. Wouldn't you know it, the other three boys talk their friend from jumping and having the same fate.  Oh, what fate would that be?  Unfortunately, Michael ended up drowning.

These four little boys are terrified and traumatized seeing their little mate die.  How in the world do they explain this to Michael's parents.  Who is going to assume responsibility over a stupid game of dare?  Fast forward to fifteen years later.  Those four little boys are now four young men who went on with their lives, each having to live with what happened so long ago.  Do any of them talk about what happened to Michael?  Of course not!  Why on earth dredge up something that was so stupid to begin with.  Although they went on with their lives, life wasn't so kind to any of them.  And what makes this story even more sad, is that you'd think after having killed their friend, or shall I say, one of them that pushed Michael, while the rest sat by and did absolutely nothing, the same one who proposed a dare to them then, is now proposing an even questionable one.  

Yep, you guessed it, this idiot decides to throw more dares out like he's handing out wads of money.  What shocked me even more is that these same three friends decide to go along with the mastermind behind Michael's death.  The dumb shit these four grown men do is just beyond belief.  I was so damn angry that they listened to this friend of theirs, again, and even being adults now, still find the need to dare each other.  The ending is somewhat bittersweet.  As I read, I kind of figured the story was going to go just as it did, but I couldn't help feeling angry by these men.  When do you let go of your childhood past and become the adult you're supposed to be?  What they ended up getting into goes well beyond the scope of what they did to their friend, Michael.  It was so obvious these men had learned absolutely nothing, especially after having a second chance at life.  When the dust settles and everything is crystal clear, what was left of the lot will quickly diminish and all because of the stupidity on their part.  

I found the story slow in many respects, and a bit confusing at times.  Each of the boys/men have their own chapters explaining their lives and how they interact with the others.  For me, I wasn't always sure who was doing the talking and had to go back a few times to recall the person I was reading.  There were times when I felt the story was boring and just showcasing a bunch of men who had not yet grown up.  That got really old really fast.  And to me, it appeared as though Michael really was an afterthought.  The author doesn't really make these characters own up to what they did, which the reader will soon discover as they read the story.  So with that, Mello & June gives this novel three stars.  These characters were so stupid, immature and downright simple and didn't seem to have a brain among any of them, let alone collectively.  They let one friend lead them down a road of despair and for what?  It isn't until the very end where one of them actually made some sense, but by this point, there really wasn't any.  This isn't a bad read, it just moves a little slow and picks up more as you get closer to the end.  

So, until next time, Happy Reading!  I hope you're keeping up with your challenges.  If you start strong you'll more than likely end strong.  Good Luck!  See ya next week.

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

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