Setting Free the Kites (★★★★☆)

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Alex George   *   G.P. Putnam’s Sons   *   February 21, 2017   *   336 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy received through Amazon Vine.

Robert Carter is struggling. After a summer spent working at his father’s quirky medieval-themed amusement park, he’s now back at school…and back to getting bullied by the class thug, Hollis. But life for Robert is about to change. While Hollis holds him upside down over a toilet at school–Robert’s head submerged in swirling poo water–both boys are surprised to see Nathan Tilly standing by the bathroom stall door. And they are even more surprised when Nathan starts beating Hollis up. The commotion of the fight gets the attention of the janitor, who promptly hauls all three boys to the principal’s office. They are punished–but though Robert is embarrassed by the post-fight fallout, he and Nathan become fast friends. Setting Free the Kites is the story of their friendship as it develops during tremendously difficult circumstances.

There is a lot to love about this book. The writing is superb–simple and to the point, but still expressive and lovely. It suits the characters and the premise of the story perfectly. And I so loved Robert and Nathan. The boys are everything you expect boys this age to be:  exasperating but still endearing, smart, searching, sweet, but also reckless in that innocently clueless sort of way. It’s impossible not to adore them.

Still, I’m withholding one star, and that is because there are several moments in here that feel needlessly sad. I have nothing against sad stories. I love sad stories! But by the end, I couldn’t help but wonder if there really needed to be SO MUCH loss. I don’t want to give anything away, but, seriously, it’s just hit after hit in this book… At some point it started feeling imbalanced, like the whole thing is about GRIEF AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

Yet, it is a legit beautiful story, and I’d still recommend reading it. If you do end up enjoying Setting Free the Kites, I’d also suggest Skippy Dies and The Impossible Fortress.

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