The Forsaken Boy
by Troy Tradup
Of all the creatures that go bump in the
night, I have always been partial to werewolves, so it may not be surprising that I rather
liked Troy Tradup's The Forsaken Boy. However, this is not just a great lycanthropic
story, but a great book of any kind.
Brandon is a senior in high school, a victim of bullying for much of his life, both
physical and mental. An outsider, he has only one real friend. When his Ojibwa mother
died, he was taken off the reservation to live with his forgotten father, a cruel man who
resented the intrusion. A coward, Brandon cannot step up to confront his many tormentors,
and he leads a pretty miserable life. When circumstances change which gives him the
ability to not only confront his tormentors but do something about it, he has to also
confront the evil inside of him.
Many werewolf tales have a bit of the Jekyll and Hyde in them, exploring how in a single
person, there can be both good and evil. In this The Forsaken Boy has some of the same
themes as explored elsewhere. The fact that the protagonist is an angst-ridden boy does
offer some new avenues to explore this, but what makes this book transcend most others is
the author's writing style and skill.
First, the story flows easily and without hiccups and pauses. This enables the reader to
be drawn in, to become part of the story. Characterization, both of people and the
Minnesota north woods community is simply outstanding. Many authors do a good job of
characterization of the main players in a book. But Tradup goes beyond that. In one scene,
he takes a very minor character, Millie, a postal worker, and really develops an
interesting and complex person. Given the plot action Millie provided, too many authors
would have made her a throw-away character, shallow and one-dimensional. But Tradup
develops her into someone I really wanted to get to know. Her little secret became my
In the same scene he describes the "summer" people, people who leave the cities
and come out to the woods, people who build their summer palaces, who bring all the
trappings of civilization to change their bit of the wild into their city environments,
then complain that there are no more wild places. When reading this section, I actually
had to slow down to savor the wordsmithing, to taste the banquet being offered.
Tradup's writing is rather emotive. This is not a shallow read. This a story which grabs
the reader and won't let go. I finished the book at 3:00 AM even though I had a flight to
catch at 6. I kept promising myself that I would read "only one more chapter." I
failed in that.
The tale is filled with death and destruction, but most of that is implied rather than
shown. Very little violence is explicitly described. This and the fact that there is some
implied child abuse may make the book not suitable for very young readers; however, there
is more explicit violence in many comic books.
The Forsaken Boy is certainly my favorite novel of the horror/supernatural genre, and it
is one of my favorites of any genre. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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