The following is an email I sent to John Goode after finishing his newest book, End of the Innocence. For those who don’t know about the series, you really should. This book is Book 2 in Goode’s Tales from Foster High series.
This is an unbelievably awesome book. I could simply stop there because that says it all. But since people sometimes need convincing, I’ll add a few details about why I say what I did.
While I’m not a fast reader, I finished this one in 24 hours simply because I could not put it down. My spouse even asked me at one point if I was mad at him. I assured him that I was not, that a book had absolutely, completely grabbed my focus. When I finished it I told him that he had to read it.
I read the three previous Tales from Foster High in their original novella form. When they were compiled into Book 1 of Tales from Foster High I read them all again in their new form. The book was great. No, it was better than great. It was very well crafted and few people alive today write as well as John Goode. The book was a great read.
And then Book 2 of Tales from Foster High: End of the Innocence came out. Simply from looking at the title I knew that some heavy things were coming our way. The book is indeed many things. It is entertaining, it is enlightening, it is thought provoking, it is a punch in a gut, it is the story of growth, it is a story of hate, it is a story of fighting back. And it is much, much more.
Kyle, one of the two main characters in the series, comes much more alive and three dimensional in this book. We got a good beginning sense of him in the first book, but in this one he is just simply very REAL. We come to understand a lot about why he does what he does and why he sees himself in such a poor light. There is much more depth to him in this book.
Brad was a more alive already in the first book, but he, too, is a richer, deeper character is this book. There are some new characters added, but I personally found most of them to be somewhat thin. The only new character that I thought had some substance was Sammy. I’m still trying to decide what to think of Jennifer, Brad’s former girlfriend and the role she plays in this story. In book 1 Brad comes out in a rather bold and public manner. In the process he loses most of his friends, including his long-standing girl friend, Jennifer. She reappears in Book 2 and plays a big role.
Early in End of the Innocence Kyle is taken “under the tutelage” (?) (wing?) of an adult gay man who has had his own bad experience in small town Texas. He tries to convince Kyle that he and Brad are uniquely positioned to make a strong statement on behalf of all gay folks. Kyle disagrees but then proceeds, slowly and with some zigs and zags, to become a young gay equivalent of Rosa Parks.
Not everything that Kyle does and says are entirely believable, but I have never found any book where all of the characters are entirely plausible. But I really admired the Kyle we see in this book. It was a dramatic transformation. I had a problem with the previously shy, reserved, quiet guy who lived with his head down walking on the sidelines in the shadows, suddenly becoming bold and very public in this book. I had a bit of difficulty believing that such a sudden change was possible. But I’m considering that perhaps his relationship with Brad is richer and deeper than we are allowed to see (it is YA fiction, after all) and he draws sufficient strength from that to blossom into the man he becomes in this book.
The book has some powerful messages. And as I’ve said before and will continue to say, John Goode writes one hell of a book. His way with words is just almost sensual. He weaves not just a story, but threads that seem to wrap around your entire being, weaving you into the story so that you become part of it. Writing like that is rare, but when I find it I treasure it.
This book and its predecessor are phenomenal books. Everything he has written is great. I’m glad he’s one of us and I just wish he lived next door so I could just sit and have coffee with him. I would love to meet him someday simply hoping that a tiny bit of his skill and ability might rub off on me. I’m an OK writer, but John Goode is a great writer and an incredible storyteller.
One final note: the cover art for these two books is some of the best I’ve seen. They are a snapshot of the story and tell a tale all by themselves. Paul Richmond, the artist, has real vision, great talent and wonderful skill.
If you haven’t already bought it, just do it – NOW. If you haven’t already read it, stop what you’re doing and read it – NOW. I’ve decided that I’m going to buy several copies in print to give to my local high school library and my local community library. Plus, the next time I go back to visit family in Midland, Texas (a setting much like Foster, Texas), I’m going to take copies with me to give there as well. This is quite a statement for me since I’m rather frugal (OK, cheap).
Thank you, John Goode! I’m so glad that you stopped at three … just read the book and the Author’s Note at the end and you’ll understand and agree.