Plot: This skillfully crafted YA mystery novel revolves around a past event that continues to haunt its protagonist. Oleksiw offers a realistic portrait of a suburban town in the 1980s and of the ties that bind individuals to the place of their origins.
Prose: Oleksiw works in a clear, lyrical prose that effectively conveys the unfolding events, while kneading at the more elusive aspects of the story, as filtered through time, tightly held secrets, and memory.
Originality: Oleksiw deftly blends a coming-of-age story with elements of a mystery, resulting in an insightful and refreshing YA novel with crossover appeal to an older audience.
Character Development: While the protagonist remains somewhat of an enigma throughout the novel, readers will come to know him through his relationships with other characters. The circumstances of the mystery will keep readers fully engaged, as will Kiran’s quest to rediscover, or perhaps reclaim, his soul.
Date Submitted: May 09, 2018
The story begins with two boys rescued from a dangerous river, one of them taken to the hospital in a coma – but there are reliable reports that three boys went in. Years later, Kiran Wells, the boy who was injured, has fled his hometown and is trying to make a life for himself – but mysterious envelopes arrive at his home, with news clippings and poems that won’t let him leave the past behind him. Over the course of the book, his memories and his story unfold – but can he come to terms with his own guilt and grief, and rebuild the relationships broken by the tragedy that ended his childhood?
THE BOYS WHO DANCED WITH THE MOON is poignant, bittersweet, and rich with the joys and sorrows of adolescent friendships. The characters are by no means dull – cynical, playful, defiant Marius, dreamy, eccentric, frequently wise Moony, and Kiran himself, full to the brim of words and poetry and young love. This is not the book for a lover of rapid action – it starts slowly, and for the first few chapters, it’s easy enough to wonder where it’s going. But hang on – once Marius is introduced, and he and Kiran become fast friends, the tale gains energy and heart in spades.
The memories unfold themselves gradually and deliberately, but powerfully. The author deftly immerses readers in the intensity of adolescent emotion, seen through the rosily wistful haze of adult recollection, and these boys are easy to love. The actual central event of the novel is rather sudden and anti-climactic, but it’s the reactions to it, the emotions and the divisions sparked by it, that matter, and those are clear and plain. The story would perhaps be more effective, however, if the beginning chapters were substantially trimmed and the ending extended. As it is, the ending feels a bit too quick and neatly resolved for the emotional intensity of the middle part, and there’s room for further exploration there.
THE BOYS WHO DANCED WITH THE MOON is a tender and poetic look at adolescent boyhood, and its currents will draw the reader along almost as powerfully as those of the river at its heart.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReade