04 June 2015

Still Waters by Ash Parsons

There is something special about books where the narrator makes poor choice after poor choice and you find yourself rooting for him or her anyway.

Ash Parsons’ STILL WATERS was one of those.

Jason is a high school senior whose dad beats him on a regular basis; he’s learned to fight, and though he is the toughest kid in school, he’s still terrified of his dad. Jason dreams of turning eighteen and running away, taking his little sister with him.

When Michael, a rich kid, offers Jason money to pretend to be his friend, it is—of course—too good to be true, and Jason ends up turning from a kid who only seems bad to a kid who actually does bad things.

Michael was written to sleazy perfection. He made my skin crawl. And his wishy-washy girlfriend, Cyndra, who might or might not like Jason, was superb, because I could never tell if I loved her or loathed her. But what really set STILL WATERS apart was Jason himself: he had so many layers, and so much heart, but he kept it bottled up so tight that it was easy for others go push his buttons and make him do what they wanted.

Like I said, Jason made some pretty dumb choices, but he usually made them for good reasons, noble ones even. So much of the story was about him taking risks, doing things he didn’t want to do, because he was desperate to save his sister.

That kind of love for your sibling says a lot about someone. And it was that incongruity—the tough guy juxtaposed with the loving brother—that made STILL WATERS such a compelling read, even though it felt a bit clich├ęd at times, and even if the ending made me kind of angry. I suppose I’m the kind of person that forgives and remembers, and there are some things I have a hard time getting past.

Despite that, I truly enjoyed STILL WATERS. It was a strong debut and I can’t wait to read what Ash Parsons comes up with next.