Matt de la Peña's fourth novel, I Will Save You, I expected to be a love story. It is, but it's also a psychological thriller.
Seventeen year old Kidd, the charming and lovable main character, has lived with domestic abuse all his life. Both parents are dead, and he doesn't know how to get past his violent past. But even when Kidd finds people who care for him, he doesn't feel lovable, but forever marked and unworthy.
It is possible for a kid with such a past to recover his self esteem and ever fit in?Can he ever feel worthy of the friendship and love of a girl like Olivia, the girl he meets at the summer camp where he works? How do people get over bad things or at least move on? That is the crux of this novel.
To most adolescents, the world is good or bad, black or white with little gray. Kids have trouble understanding that the world is complicated. That comes with getting older.
What we see in I Will Save You is a boy who has externalized all the "bad" within him, conveniently seeing it not in himself, but in a boy named Devon. The two have a grand battle, a sort of crusade of good against evil to the death. But where does Kidd end and Devon begin? The reader isn't sure what is real or imaginary. This is cleaver plotting and a satisfying pay off in the end.
This novel is a hopeful one and I hope that it finds its way into the hands of kids who have difficult things in their lives to accept, which is actually most kids. And for others, like myself, it is a realistic portrayal of human psychological defenses and should provoke a lively discussion.
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