Friday, October 16, 2015

Breakaway by Kat Spears

* * * 1/2

From Kat Spears, author of Sway, comes a new novel that asks the question: when a group of four best friends begin to drift apart, what will it take to bring them back together?

When Jason Marshall's younger sister dies, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates — Mario, Jordie, and Chick — to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who's not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick. Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on.

A witty and emotionally moving tale of friendship, first love, and loss, Breakaway is Kat Spears at her finest.

It’s a miracle when an author can get you to come round to liking an utterly unlikable protagonist. That’s what happened in Sway and how I came to admire Kat Spears’ writing. Naturally, Breakaway has been on my list of must-read books for a while.

Jason or Jax as he’s known to his friends is going through the worst period of his life right now. His younger sister died (the cause never revealed to the reader) and he's not entirely sure how he should grieve. He and his friends live in a rougher part of town. They’re all pretty tight and are also on the soccer team. But after his sister’s funeral, Jax notices some changes happening within the group. His best friend Mario has been different lately, Jordie is dating and Chick, the friend that they took under their wing has been acting strangely. Then there is his strained relationship with his mother, worsened since his sister’s passing because he's uncertain how to help her through her heartache, too.

Jax is a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy so it’s unexpected when he hits it off with Raine, a mutual friend. He’s been cool so far with being the jerk and being perceived as such but when h's around Raine, he's awkward. There's something about her that begs a different response from him. Possibly what draws him to her is that she doesn’t expect anything from him. He takes delight in little things like their taunting each other over their music choices. (I did love that mention of Arcade Fire and Foals, by the way.) She lightens the mood and gives him something to look forward to. So it turns out, he's changing, too.

Kat Spears has done it again delivering a complicated character who’s learning firsthand how life can change in an instant (the death of his sister) and also evolve so slowly that you don't recall when it started (the changing dynamics between his friends). It's about how growing into adulthood means an ever-changing perception of self and the immediate world around you, which is exactly what's occurring here. I was impressed by how Jax maintained some self-control despite other forces spiraling out of control around him. However, he can’t save everyone while he’s still hampered by his own confusion. 

Breakaway will resonate with readers. It's profound reading that made me think about my own childhood friends and also wonder how my eldest, who’s on to high school soon, will adapt to certain changes in the coming years. So yes, read Breakaway and when you're done, give Jax a hug.

~ Bel

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