- Written by Alex George
- Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House February 21 2017
- Length: 326 pages
- Source: E galley via Edelweiss with permission from publisher in exchange for an honest review
For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly, who changes everything. Nathan is confident, fearless, impetuous–and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan’s budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies, and as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss, they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park. It’s there that Nathan’s boundless capacity for optimism threatens to overwhelm them both, and where they learn some harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge.
Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.(publisher)
The landscape of the small town of Haverford, Maine is perfect for Setting Free the Kites. The beach which can be warm and inviting in summer, and brutal and foreboding in winter is more than just coincidence. It sets a tone for many of the major events in the story. Robert’s life is quiet and small, but when the new kid in town, Nathan, and he become friends much changes. Nathan’s desire for adventure opens new windows for Robert, and he does things he would have never attempted alone. Some are foolish and harmless kids things, but others can lead to regret.
Alex George writes about these boys as if he’s lived their lives. We get to know so much about Robert and what is going on inside his mind. Nathan’s actions are out there for us all to see, but understanding him is difficult. Their summers working in Fun-A-Lot, the amusement park, are funny and we see them growing up, their interests separating a bit. As Robert matures and is able to see his family more clearly, he realizes what a mess they really are. It’s heartbreaking.
There is so much more to say about Setting Free the Kites, both boys families, the inner and outer bullies they faced, tragedies that would break anyone, but you really should read this book.
I believe I’m going to miss Robert and Nathan very much. I love a coming or age tale and Alex George has given us a story that will stick in your mind. Think back to that best friend who got you through middle school and entering high school, this is how this book feels. Fierce friendship and pledges to hold the others secrets and dreams. Grab this one now…so good.