“The best thing about endings is knowing that just ahead is the daunting task to start over.” ― Jodi Picoult
Author: N.R. Walker
Publisher: Totally Bound
Pages/Word Count: 355 Pages
Rating: 3 Stars
Blurb: After going past the point of no return and finally reaching breaking point, the only thing Matthew Elliott can do now is start over.
Matthew Elliott is a recovering man. As an ex-cop and ex-fighter, his new job teaching kids at the local community gym about drug awareness and self-defense, is a little bit of both. His new focus on helping street kids is helping him heal, and with Kira by his side, he’s making strides.
Brother and sister, Rueben and Claudia, are homeless kids and they’re very much alone. As they strike a chord with Matt, he does everything in his power to help them.
But when Ruby and Claude need more help than he bargained for, it stops being about work, and starts being about home.
The day he met Kira, Matt’s life changed direction, and it’s only now he realises that everything he’s been through led up to this moment. It was never about endings. His life, his purpose, was just beginning.
Reader Advisory: This book contains reference to the death of a child.
Review: One of the most difficult things about being an author must be living up to reader expectations because it’s a can’t-win-for-losing proposition. One of the hardest things about being a reader is not to have expectations. But, right or wrong, after we become so emotionally invested in a series and its characters, there are certain things we come to anticipate based upon what we’ve already been shown. And while I was in no way entirely disappointed in Starting Point, I also feel very strongly that it doesn’t live up to the intensity and emotional impact of the two books that came before it. The reality of it is that there was a huge contrast between the visceral grittiness of Point of No Return and Breaking Point, and the sweetness that is Starting Point, and it was those differences that were difficult to reconcile.
On its own, Starting Point is an incredibly heartwarming story that showed how far Matt has come after nearly punishing himself to death in Breaking Point. Watching him heal after the psychological self-flagellation he’d endured was gratifying, but as the entirety of a storyline, it’s like comparing the lit match to the forest fire in terms of the way this book fits into the series. Kira and Matt are working to settle into a life together, this is indeed their starting point, and everything leading up to it was a test of their commitment and resilience. Now that Matt is getting the help he needs and is focused on his new job at the gym, the feel-good direction of this story arc left what I thought was some unrealized dramatic potential on the drawing table. There were no backslides and a lot of sweet reassurances between Matt and Kira; added to their storyline are a couple of homeless children whose story was emotionally affecting but was also used somewhat predictably not only to show where Matt and Kira are in their own relationship but also to introduce a side story that didn’t maintain the action/suspense/danger factor I loved so much in books one and two.
Starting Point brings back quite a few familiar characters from the previous books; Yumi (whom I adore) and Sal, Kira’s parents, are given quite a bit of page time in this installment as they’re key to Matt and Kira’s story arc. The guys from the gym, whom Matt had befriended and betrayed but ultimately came through for, are there but don’t play a terribly critical role in the plot, and Mitch, Matt’s ex-partner, is given a bit role but little more. When all was said and done, I couldn’t help but feel that the first two novels in this series had ruined me for this gentle ending to its fast and furious beginning.
There’s no doubt that N.R. Walker can tell a great story. I’m a fan of her Thomas Elkin series and still consider myself a fan of the Turning Point series, even if Starting Point didn’t live up to everything I’d hyped it up to and hoped it would be. The fact is she’s created two characters in Matt and Kira I wanted to get the happy ending they’d fought so hard for; however, I expected it to be a little more work based upon everything that had come before it. And that’s the downfall of having expectations.