Library Journal Review
In this rollicking new novel by Zusak (The Book Thief), we meet the Dunbar boys: narrator Matthew; wild Rory; bridge builder Clay; Henry, the entrepreneur; and Tommy, the animal lover. The Dunbars' interactions bring to mind cartoons in which characters are locked together with fists flying and pain inflicted, and the narrative takes on big themes such as love, death, sin, abandonment, and redemption. After having left the boys on their own, their father, Michael, returns to ask for their help in building a bridge across a river. Only Clay rises to the challenge. Each chapter stands on its own, focusing on different characters, including Michael, from a small Australian town; the boys' mother, Penny, from Eastern Europe; and Carey Novac, an aspiring jockey and Clay's love interest. Invoking the Iliad and the Odyssey, the story creates its own larger-than-life mythologies. VERDICT Though the movement from one chapter to the next can be confusing-the novel would have benefited from more editing and tightening-Zusak just loves his characters (including the animals), and the reader will, too. Marketed for a YA audience in the United States but best suited to strong YA readers and adults.-Jacqueline Snider, Toronto © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
This exquisitely written multigenerational family saga by Zusak (The Book Thief), his first novel in 13 years, weaves the story of a missing father and a bridge-building brother. The five Dunbar brothers are beholden to only themselves after the death of their mother and abandonment by their father ("Our mother was dead./ Our father had fled"). Matthew, the eldest, puts their story to paper by way of "the old TW," a typewriter: "Let me tell you about our brother./ The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay./ Everything happened to him./ We were all of us changed through him." Slipping back and forth in time, the book maps a complex history: grown and married with two children, Matthew recounts their mother's immigration to the United States at age 18, their father's upbringing and first marriage, and young life in the chaotic, loving Dunbar household of five boys-then devastation after their father disappears. The deftly woven threads build tension as Zusak's skillful use of foreshadowing and symbolism brings long-held secrets to the surface. With heft and historical scope, Zusak creates a sensitively rendered tale of loss, grief, and guilt's manifestations. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-An epic tale about grief, loss, and reconciliation. The Dunbar brood has fended for itself ever since their mother died from cancer and their father abandoned them. The five young men lead practically lawless lives in a ramshackle house filled to the brim with dirty dishes and stray animals. Their haphazard existence is interrupted by the return of their estranged father, who hopes to build a stone bridge with the help of his offspring. Clay is the only sibling who agrees to help. This hefty tome jumps across multiple time lines, from their mother's escape from Eastern Europe to her heartbreaking illness and from the father's abandonment to the present day, in which the eldest brother Matthew, now in his 30s, is recording their story on an old typewriter. Heavily influenced by the Homeric poems that the family enjoys, the plot is teeming with metaphors and episodic feats. Clay, the focus of the novel, takes on a mythic sheen in Matthew's recounting that will remind YA fans of Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee or Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones. The narrative becomes unwieldy in places because of the evocative prose, and sometimes the family saga is overpowered by various subplots. Even though bits of humor and one-liners leaven the work, the testosterone-infused dialogue may turn off some teens. VERDICT Give this to strong readers who enjoy weighty coming-of-age novels that blur the line between young adult and adult fiction.-Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.