Book Reviews

{Book Review} IN THE SCRAPE by James Newman and Mark Steensland

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  • Pages: 108
  • Published: July 1st 2019
  • Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing

Before reading In The Scrape, I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few stories by James Newman. Even though I didn’t know who Mark Steensland was, I was confident going into this story because I knew James Newman could write with anyone. He is a versatile writer, with a few notches in his book post, if you know what I mean. Within the first handful of pages, I quickly became a huge fan of Steensland. I couldn’t tell who wrote what, it just meshed so well together. Newman and Steensland bring that much needed grit to the story, that genuinely authentic feel that is needed to bring about nostalgia.

What’s unique about this book is the premise, this right of passage into manhood. In different parts of America, this idea of the growing up moment is different for everyone. Some people have to grow up quicker than planned. Things happen. Life happens. Innocence is lost forever. You can’t get it back once it’s gone. There’s no turning back. It’s like a vale has been lifted from your eyes, and the real world hits you in the teeth. You’re never prepared for what’s to come. In The Scrape encapsulates all of those things. Newman and Steensland deliver this beautifully fucked up package and you have to open it. Once you open the package, it pulls you in, but don’t struggle. Take a deep breath and let that nostalgia hit you. Let it settle in your bones. But don’t get complacent. No, heavens no. Newman and Steensland take turns punching you in the gut. When they get tired of doing that, they resort to sweeping the leg. It is brutal, but I think you can take it. Newman and Steensland probably drink their readers’ tears.

You have two brothers, Jake and Matthew, who live with their abusive father. Their mother ran out on them years ago. If they aren’t getting whooped by their father, they’re getting bullied by the kids from school. There’s only so much a kid can take. The brothers want to take off and find their mother, but they need money. Jake decides to sell off his rare comics to the local comic book shop. One day, the bully takes it too far. Jake ends up putting him in the hospital. The comic book scenes are gut-wrenching. I cried during those scenes. Those poor comics. They didn’t deserve it.

Jake and Matthew’s father takes them to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season. I’ve never understood the right of passage/becoming a man by shooting a majestic deer. While this hunting expedition is going on, the bully and his father have plans of their own. Revenge. And to top it off, Sheriff Theresa McLelland investigates the fight involving Jake, which leads to disturbing revelations that will change everything.

Everything comes to a head out in the woods near the family cabin. Heartache. Damaged pride. Revelations that weigh on a person’s soul for a lifetime. There’s so much pent up anger in this novella. It all comes to a fever pitch in the woods out by the family cabin. I love the title of this book, it’s like a double-entendre. There’s so much to unpack in this book. I won’t touch on it all here, so as not to spoil anything. But I will talk about the character development and the brilliant prose.

Whilst reading In The Scrape, you can’t help but revel in the story itself. It’s one hell of an accomplishment. It takes some authors 400 pages to convey a strong story. It only took James Newman and Mark Steensland 108 pages to tell a powerful story. The story contains versatile characters. You get to see the character growth as the story progresses. I just wanted to hug Jake and Matthew, and to let them know I was rooting for them. And I wanted to punch their father in the throat.

James Newman and Mark Steensland can write as good as anyone. Their attention to detail is sublime. When the dread sets in, you can feel it way down deep in your bones. And the two authors never miss a beat. They crank it up a notch when they need to. You don’t have to wait around for something to happen. In The Scrape is a fast-paced read. It’s a great way to spend an hour or so. It’s one of the best books of 2019 thus far.


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Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome videogame everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after.

It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . . .

Categories: Book Reviews

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