Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome videogame everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after.It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . . .
Horror After Dark Review
IN THE SCRAPE is a novella by James Newman and Mark Streensland. While I’m familiar with Newman’s work, I wasn’t as sure about Streenslands’s style, and how the two would merge together. After reading this story, I can honestly say that I couldn’t tell you where one author stopped and the other began.
This novella had a strong “coming-of-age” theme wound around an emotional rollercoaster of events. The two boys, thirteen year-old Jake and nine year-old Matthew, were completely real to me, in all ways. Their thoughts, dialog, actions, and most of all–confusion–all rang true in the situation they were in.
“The world is a scary place for a kid. It’s even scarier when you’re forced to watch your back because those that are supposed to protect you are those you should fear the most . . . “
The other element that I have to praise is that of the main antagonist, the villain, in this case the boys’ father. This wasn’t a man that was “clearly” evil–he was shown as a much more complex character than that. Yes, he was a bad father; however, in the next scene he could be sticking up for his kids, or praising them for something or other. While adults could easily see the “bad” angle to Kurt Braderson, to his youngest son, things weren’t so “black-and-white”.
“. . . A guy can’t help what’s in his blood.”
The story gives us a good sense of what it’s like to be these two boys, and the situations they had to face day to day. While the youngest was torn with emotional turmoil, the oldest takes on the role of protector. This seemed quite natural and consistent with the story’s direction. In addition to their home issues, there are bullies to contend with, unsafe environmental factors, and the always present, school.
“. . . It was as if the new city park that had opened . . . on the opposite side of town had leached all life from this one . . . “
There were certain issues that I found fairly predictable here, as well as a few things that didn’t feel completely necessary. However, aside from these instances, I felt that this novella was a great read, especially in regards to character development.
“. . . That’s the thing about lying, though. You start doubting everything around you, can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not . . . “
Overall, a strong coming-of-age story with some original characters, believable motivations, good action scenes, and one that will hold you an emotional prisoner until the very end.
About The Author
About Mark Steensland
Mark Steensland self-published his first book while in fourth grade, and has been telling stories ever since–some of them true. He became a professional journalist at the age of 18, writing about movies for such magazines as Prevue and American Cinematographer. His award-winning films have played in festivals around the world. His novel for young readers, Behind the Bookcase, was published in 2012. His novel for adults, The Special, was published in late 2018 and is now being made into a feature film. He currently lives in California with his wife and their three children.