Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review of WONDER by Travis Thrasher

In Wonder, the first book in Travis Thrasher's Books of Marvella series, Thrasher sets up a story that moves forward on two levels. First, there's the story of Brandon, a teenager with an abusive drunk for a father and a summer job that he volunteers to work for free just so he can get to know the new girl in town, Marvel Garcia. As Brandon navigates the life of a teenager and the unique struggles he faces, there's another level of the story brewing in the background. A teenager has been murdered in their small town, and no one knows who is responsible. As Wonder takes us into the first half of Act 2 of Thrasher's Marvella story, Brandon and Marvel become closer as they discover more and more about each other, their dysfunctional families, and the role Marvel believes she is to play in God's redemptive plan.

Wonder is a love story, but it's one that is played out against the backdrop of the mystery surrounding the murders occurring in the town. What's interesting about this story is that this is clearly about the murder that occurred in Marvelous, but it's as if Thrasher refuses to let us explore the murder with any depth just yet. It truly feels like that plot thread is running in the background, and it gives the story a sense of foreboding throughout.

This story, or at least this part of the story, is about Brandon and Marvel. Marvel is a great character. She's unique, bold, confident, and yet strangely humble. She has a deep love for God, and yet Thrasher isn't afraid to show us that she struggles at times with the faith she embraces. This is important because although she feels deeply for Brandon, she's sure she's not supposed to be with him.

What I always love about Travis Thrasher novels is the characterization. Being written in first-person point-of-view, Brandon has a very distinct voice and personality that comes through clearly in the story. But the depth of characterization isn't limited to just the main character. Thrasher has created a distinct voice for Marvel and all of Brandon's quirky friends, as well as his enemies. I don't think you can read a Thrasher novel without getting a clear idea of what each of the characters is like, and it's great because although this is another young adult series like Thrasher's earlier Solitary Tales (one of the best series I've ever read), Brandon Jeffrey definitely isn't another Chris Buckley; he's his own character with his own struggles and journey.

Wonder is the second book in a four-book series, and the last few pages will leave you wanting to continue the story because it's the midpoint, and the midpoint is the place where things start to get crazy. I'll be interested to see where this story goes from here and its connection to Solitary (read the acknowledgements in the back for the vaguest hint that they're connected). If you're looking for a story with exceptional characterization and a suspenseful plot, The Books of Marvella is one to check out.

Review copy provided by Tyndale House Publishers