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Boy on Hold


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A family-centered mystery that discusses addiction, mental illness, and parental relationships, this book is a light but thoughtful read.

Boy On Hold by J.D. Spero is a well-written family-centered mystery novel that narrates the story of Marcella, Hen, and Tyler Trout and how they cope when Tyler is accused of committing a mysterious crime that involves their neighbors, the Hubbards. The crime untangles a thread of underlying issues surrounding their small town in the Adirondacks, such as drug dealing and corrupt authorities, and touches upon hard issues such as mental health, absent parents, and addiction.

This thriller establishes a very good pace. It takes the time to explore each character’s backstory and personal inner development and this is the way in which plot developments are revealed and advanced. All characters, even the sketchy ones, are likeable and a relatable to some extent because of this. Their dimensionality provides a very real portrayal of the characters’ behavior during the crisis.

The representation of mental illness, in this case psychosis, is not exaggerated or uninvestigated; it is probed progressively through revealing behaviors and thought processes. Although its representation may seem excessive to those unfamiliar with the condition, it is an authentic fictional portrait of psychosis in an undiagnosed and untreated state. The involvement of drugs is an additional facet which is quite related to the subject but also conveniently adds some darkness and drama to the story, which is particularly well crafted.

One of the main characters is Hen, who is a first-grader and is firsthand witness to a few of the dark ongoings of this family and the town. His innocence and good intentions provide both lightness and darkness to the story, and overall highlights the abstractedness of concepts such as “truth”, which is a word with a meaning that is always taken for granted. In a novel in which a mystery is probed and taken to court, keeping a degree of detachment from concepts which are generally interpreted as a universal standard (concepts such as “truth”, “friendship”, “family”, etc.) is a very good way to maintain uncertainty even as the final premise is revealed. Doing this on top of a plot that already works upon frail topics that are not immediately understood (such as addiction and psychosis) adds layers of enigma and works very well for the story.

Overall, this novel is well written with a thoroughly thought out plot. Characters are alive and vivid and varied, and even though they deal with dark situations, the writing still transmits some lightness through characters like Hen and Bernie and Marcella’s warmth. The discussion centers around the good intentions that often lead to misguided perceptions, and how a family deals with lifting the blindfold and finding the strength to face the mental issues and bad behavior of a family member. If you are looking for a mild mystery told through a family and neighborhood drama that features good characters and thoughtful writing, Boy On Hold should definitely be your next read. 

Reviewed by

Book editor, freelance content writer, and translator with a literature MA. I'm passionate about all kinds of literature and art. I enjoy editing, reading, and writing creative and informative content to the best of my abilities. Originality, insight, and entertainment are priorities for me. #Scifi

October 1991

About the author

Johannah Davies (JD) Spero's four novels have won recognition from Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (2013), National Indie Excellence Award (2014, 2016), Adirondack Literary Award (2015), and Book Excellence Award (2016, 2020). She lives with her husband and three sons in upstate New York. view profile

Published on August 13, 2019

Published by Immortal Works

80000 words

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by