Title: Throwing Stones
Author: Robin Reardon
Length: 406 Pages
Category: New Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal
At a Glance: This is a good book. A great book. One that had me crying for practically the whole last quarter of it.
Reviewed By: Taz
Blurb: In this paranormal romance, something is drawing seventeen-year-old Jesse Bryce toward the community of Pagans who live in “the village,” just outside his rural Oklahoma town. Maybe it’s that he has a crush on Griffin Holyoke, a tall, dark-haired boy with a tree tattooed all up his back. Or maybe it’s that the Pagans accept Jesse for who he is, unlike his family–or his church, where he hears that being gay is a sin.
After a man from the village is murdered while trying to prevent an assault on a girl from the town, Jesse’s confusion at the town’s unsympathetic reaction inspires him to set a mission for himself: to build a bridge of acceptance between the town and the village.
As Jesse defies his parents and continues to visit the village, he witnesses mysterious rituals that haunt him with their beauty and intensity. And he falls in love with one enigmatic, mercurial Pagan who opens his eyes to a whole new world.
This first-person story explores what can happen when we make conclusions about others based on too little information, or on the wrong information. Whether we’re misunderstanding each others’ religions or each others’ sexual orientation, everyone benefits from learning the truth. And everyone benefits from forgiveness.
Review: Throwing Stones was an epic journey. I’ve read two other books by Robin Reardon, and they have all been very well crafted, the stories provocative and the characters relatable, but this story surpassed them both. I think what I liked best was the fact you get several stories in one within the pages of this book of love and acceptance…of building bridges between people and communities who have canyons of fear and misunderstanding separating them.
I want to get my one criticism out of the way up front, because I want you to leave with a sense of how magnificent the book was. The prior books I read were published through a different house. I don’t know if this particular publisher for Throwing Stones is independent or if Ms. Reardon has branched out on her own, but there were enough spelling errors/wrong words that I was distracted from time to time. A slightly more careful editing job would have fixed this problem.
That said, let’s move on to all the ways the book was amazing.
Jesse is our main character, and through his eyes we watch the world around him happen. Although, that’s not a very good description because Jesse is one brave kid. He’s gay, curious about other cultures, open to new experiences, and persistent in his quest for paving a way for himself and others to get to a better place.
The main conflicts in the story, and I say conflicts because there are more than one, are Jesse’s sexuality and the divide in the town between Christian and Pagan people. Let’s tackle each one separately.
In terms of Jesse’s sexuality, he comes out to his best friend, who handles it pretty well, but when he comes out to his family they don’t handle it as smoothly. At least he wasn’t kicked out of his house. Along the journey of getting his family to continue to love him and to realize he’s no different than he ever had been, he has to look inward to see how his own views and beliefs may just be part of what’s preventing his father and brother from accepting him. The story is an exercise in patience for Jesse as he lives his life and slowly helps others to see him as he is…which essentially is no different than he was before. The love interest is thrilling in its newness for Jesse, as well as the fact it crosses the Christian/Pagan line. I was a little surprised by how much of the physical acts came into play since Jesse is seventeen and my understanding of young adult is that certain things aren’t normally directly described. If that would make a reader uncomfortable, they should proceed cautiously, but there aren’t many scenes that cross this borderline.
The main conflict in the story, however, was that between the Christians and Pagans in the small town of Himlen, Oklahoma. There was deep hatred and fear on the part of the town toward the Pagans—who use names such as heathens, devil worshippers, and vampires to describe them. The Pagans are blamed for every wrong that occurs in the town, and even the most open-minded of people who rally behind Jesse after he comes out remain skeptical of believing anything good about the Pagans.
For me, the beauty of this story was that Jesse’s sexuality was really a subplot, taking a back seat to the larger issue of communities divided by hate. The message, painted in a way that allows the reader to slowly form it in his or her own way, is that negativity and walls of opposition can only be broken down when both sides have at least one person who is willing to make the first move.
In Throwing Stones we experience Jesse making that first move, over and over, and then waiting for the other side to make its move. This becomes frustrating, heart-breaking and painful in more than one spot, but when the story lines finally start to weave closer and closer together toward the end, the rewards, for Jesse and for the reader, are larger than I normally experience when reading a good book. The triumphs are Olympian in proportion. And, in the end, one can’t help but realize that change for the better can occur when just a single person persists, following their dreams and fighting for what they believe is right.
There is so much more to this story that I couldn’t possibly cover it in a review. The scenes describing Pagan rituals, rochhounding (gotta read the book if you don’t already know what this is), simply driving around in a truck, all bring to life the inner workings of a young man’s life and how he manages to piece everything together to bring unity to those around him. Ms. Reardon has educated us as well as entertained, mixing an appreciation for the land and spirituality with the universal need we all have to belong and to feel loved.
This is a good book. A great book. One that had me crying for practically the whole last quarter of it.
You can buy Throwing Stones here: