Those of you who know my reading tastes realize my love for Travis Thrasher's writing. So when Hurt came up on the CFBA Tour, I decided I'd do something I hoped I didn't regret: I'd start with the latest novel in the four book series for young adults. Hurt, published by David C. Cook, and written by Travis Thrasher, follows in order: Solitary, Gravestone, and Temptation, composing the four novels in The Solitary Tales. Although written for a teen audience, much like Robert Liparulo's The Dreamhouse Kings Series, these novels can also appeal to adults.
I don't regret not reading the prior three stories from the standpoint that Hurt captures the essence of the struggles of the series' protagonist Chris Buckley effectively. I get him, and I can understand the perils of this spiritually cursed town of Solitary, North Carolina, where he's been forced to return because of dire threats to the safety of his mother. It's his senior year of high school, he has his eye on the innocent and lovely Kelsey who reciprocates his attention, but he's also well aware of his being watched by followers of his evil grandfather.
As he contemplates what is being demanded of him by the fake Pastor Marsh, the creepy visions he endures which both scare and enlighten him, he tries to maintain an appearance of normalcy while seeing Kelsey and waiting for his mother's release from the clutches of his heritage. His dad writes from Chicago with letters of faith and hope for reuniting their separated family.
As the story progresses leading up to a Memorial Day climax where Chris will be given an expected role of some kind in his dying grandfather's passing of the wicked baton, Chris realizes his shaky faith in the Lord is being challenged at all levels, and he wonders if he can stand strong in the approaching day of terror. At times he wonders if the reality is just another nightmare. He knows everyone he's close to is in danger, but he reaches out to a few odd friends in hopes somehow he can survive what's coming.
Tension builds effectively in Hurt, pain that goes deeper than the usual teenage angst is captured expertly, and quirky characters pop in and out of the story along with the perils of lost souls, the remembrances of cruel deaths, a bit of stereotypical evil, vivid imagery, and only an occasional slowdown of the steady pacing. Chris Buckley is a likable protagonist with typical thoughts that skim the surface, wish to escape the trials, but ultimately run deep in expressing the content of his soul. His mom is vague, but we're seeing her through a teen boy's eyes. Dad sounds promising, and Kelsey is a real version of a good girl who's just a bit wishy-washy in her faith at times but strong in character. There is considerable hurt in Chris's past and present, but the future looks to be full of healing.
Highly recommended for teens and adults. I've only read Hurt, but I'm confident it's a good series for teens who like a little supernatural suspense/horror with relatable emotional content and challenges to faith elements.
Father, please continue to inspire and entrust Travis with your stories. You've given him a sensitivity to the heart of humanity, the real people looking for you. I pray you would help him to be true to what you have for him and bless all he does to honor you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.