Title: Raise It Up
Author: Nick Wilgus
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink
Length: 350 Pages
Category: Historical, Teen Fiction
At a Glance: I could go on and on—this novel was just brilliant. Raise It Up by Nick Wilgus may not be an easy read but it is so worth the effort.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Secrets can only stay buried for so long before they poison everything. But dragging them into the light is never easy—and it isn’t something Cyrus Hood can do alone.
Amidst the atmosphere of suspicion brought on by the Cold War, Cyrus struggles to keep a lid on his family’s dark secrets, like the reason for his little brother, Charlie, being “not right in the head” and his father’s drinking, conspiracy theories, and abuse. While trying to hold together a family hell-bent on tearing itself apart, Cyrus is also discovering things within himself he can’t divulge—like his attraction to his best friend Oliver. Yet it might be Oliver who stands with Cyrus when Cyrus is at his most lost and vulnerable, and it might be Oliver to show him that no matter how many times life knocks you down, love can raise you up again.
Review: I really loved this novel. I have never read this author before, but I must tell you that I will be remedying that in the near future, as I have already begun to check out his backlist. Nick Wilgus writes with a truly distinctive voice—one which is genuine, compelling and rich in emotion. Raise It Up is not an easy story to read. With physical and sexual abuse running as concurrent themes, and restrictive religious overtones, you will be constantly amazed at how our hero, Cyrus, manages to survive. It is a brutally honest story that never sugarcoats the hell Cyrus navigates and manages to survive in. But despite all that, Cyrus creates a loving existence for his two younger siblings, and claws his way out of despair over and over again.
Cyrus is a keeper of secrets—some so dark and unimaginable that when they finally begin to spill out, the people who hear them are horrified. He is barely fifteen when his mother dies of a sudden heart attack, something for which Cyrus blames himself, leaving the family in complete and utter disarray. With a drunken, paranoid father who is prone to acts of violence, and an older brother who wants nothing more than to earn enough to escape their deplorable life, it is up to Cyrus to care for his brother Charlie, and sister, Kay. One of the many secrets Cyrus holds is just what happened to Charlie many years ago that left him with the cognitive abilities of a four year old.
With the burden of keeping his little family together, the last thing Cyrus needs is an attraction that the church calls perverted and a mortal sin. But fellow high school sophomore and best friend Oliver is just so kind to Cyrus and likes him—more than he should. Secrets are funny things, and we can hold them in for only so long before they become an unbearable weight. Cyrus finds himself at a breaking point, and when he finally has no choice left, he must reveal things that will tear his family apart.
There was such strength in Cyrus. Despite the idea that he was absolutely crumbling inside, and walking the edge of a precipice so deep it was frightening, this young man did everything he could to keep his family safe. I was overwhelmed by how deeply this novel affected me. I could not put it down and yet dreaded what I might read next. But through it all, despite the many horrors Cyrus had to endure, he clung to the love he had for his brother and sister. We got to watch Cyrus blossom as Oliver drew him out and helped him understand that the church was not always right and should not be the judge and jury of their sexuality, and that no matter what was buried in the past, the two of them could survive it if they loved each other enough.
I could go on and on—this novel was just brilliant. Raise It Up by Nick Wilgus may not be an easy read but it is so worth the effort. Ultimately, love triumphs in this novel. It beats back the dark secrets that threaten to destroy, and lets in much needed healing and light.
You can buy Raise It Up here: