Through The Cracks
Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
The day has come where young teenager Adam Vander has grown tall enough and strong enough to hit back at his violent, abusive father. To turn the tables and have that man cowering in fear, instead of being the one who does the cowering. Kept a prisoner in a secret room, Adam now has the freedom to explore the house and the backyard but he’s faced with a myriad of things he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know how to work the stove. He doesn’t know how to leave the house and get to the shops. In order to get new food, he has to force his father to do what he wants, all the time keeping his guard up so that the tables don’t get turned again.
For the first time in a long time, Adam tastes freedom when a young man named Billy helps him escape from the prison he’s been kept in for over a decade. Billy takes Adam on an adventure around the streets of Melbourne, teaching Adam things and giving him simple experiences as they seek to avoid police and a sinister Mission Group. As Billy peels back the layers surrounding Adam’s mysterious existence, questions begin to surface. Billy knows that Joe Vander wasn’t Adam’s father but Adam cannot remember any different.
But revealing Adam’s identity isn’t simple and straight forward – it could be extremely dangerous for both of them because it means revealing secrets that powerful and important people would best want to keep hidden. In order to Adam to get his fair chance at a life outside of where he was kept prisoner, someone else might have to take the fall.
I’ve read nearly all of Honey Brown’s books and enjoy the way in which she builds suspense and creates twists and turns that I never see coming. However, I think this might be one of the most understated but creepy books I’ve ever read. You don’t get graphic details in this book but you don’t need them. In fact, it’s entirely left up to the reader to imagine what has happened to Adam for most of his young life, and to young boys like Billy as well and it’s all too easy to imagine the horror these boys and others like them have experienced at the hands of predators and people they should be able to place their utmost trust in, like their parents and church missions. But the cold reality of life is, sometimes the people who trust the most are the ones who betray you the worst.
Adam believes that Joe is his father and he has lived with a lifetime of abuse, locked away from the world, unable to read or write and with no life experience. When Billy sees Adam’s situation, he helps him escape, perhaps seeing a chance for Adam to escape from the path into the life that Billy has found himself in. He helps Adam lay low, away from the police until he realises the full horror of Adam’s story and then Billy decides that Adam must turn himself in, make his true identity known. The danger of that is influential people who will be exposed and who seem willing to do horrible things to have their secrets kept. For Adam and Billy, it is about trying to stay one step ahead of the people that want to find them and using Billy’s street smarts to help tip the outcome their way.
So much that happens or that is alluded to in this book is so hard to fathom and yet you know that it happens in the real world. There are people like Joe out there who pay well to indulge in their habits and there are kids like Adam and Billy, innocents who are snatched away or given away into a horrific situation. And yet despite the fact that this book is horrifying and that there are so many characters I’d be happy to watch burn, there’s also some positive in this book, such as Billy and Adam’s rapport and the hope for a better future, that the two of them can escape the cycle and perhaps have a chance at some sort of normalcy. You know that it’ll be hard, given what they’ve experienced, and maybe even unattainable but the hope is there. The two boys are both great characters and carry this story so well – most of it is the two of them together, Billy trying to figure out the puzzle of Adam at first, always protecting him and keeping him safe and making sure he can make his own choices. When he realises who Adam is, he knows that they have to make the discovery known, it’s just a matter of being able to manage it. I thought the balance between the awful, horrifying, creepy stuff and the beauty and hope of Adam and Billy’s friendship was magnificently done. In all of the terribleness of young boys being exploited and treated abominably, the glimmers of hope for their future are something for the reader to cling to.
For me this book has a different feel and execution to her previous books but maintains the same high standard.
Book #92 of 2014