Matt de la Pena is one of the new voices in YA literature, one who proved his mettle with is very first book, BALL DON'T LIE. His latest offering for teens, I WILL SAVE YOU, presents one of the most complex and memorable characters to come along in a while. The tone is almost Cormier-like in places as well, making this a novel that many of us will study closely for its ties to some of the classics.
Kidd Ellison has run away from Horizons, a group home where he was placed following the murder suicide of his father and mother. He is taken under the wing of Mr. Red, a maintenance worker for a campsite. Slowly, Kidd comes to life under Red's tutelage. However, when Devon arrives on the scene, all of Kidd's progress is for naught.
Readers will be kept guessing as the novel opens with Kidd possibly causing the death of Devon and then moves back and forth in time to fill in the blanks. Who is Devon? Why is he bent on destroying whatever happiness Kidd can find? de la Pena explores issues of gender, class, mental illness, family, friendship, loss, and recovery. Despite it all, though, the story is Kidd's to tell. And tell it he does, haltingly, maddeningly. Mystery and psychology meet in this beautifully crafted novel.
Possible Ladder Rungs:
YOU by Charles Benoit
LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER by Ben Alire Saenz
FREEWILL by Chris Lynch