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Book Ideas Review

'At that moment, I decided that even though what Richie did to Jim was scary, it was an accident,' (pg. 79) thirteen-year-old Shelton says in Train of Consequences, a suspenseful novel by Tom Jarvis. Shelton narrates the story of his friendship with fourteen-year-old Richie Kemp in a small New Hampshire town called Overture.

Shelton has just lost his older brother, John, from a car accident when Richie and his mother move to Overture. Shelton and Richie become great friends, while dealing with separate family troubles. Shelton's parents are on the verge of divorce, while Richie gets an abusive stepfather. One day, the two boys run away with a plan to go to Mexico, but a confrontation leads them to change their plan.

Luckily, the boys meet 'Dusty,' who takes them on a freight-train ride to a hobo camp in Virginia. Here, Shelton and Richie try to adjust to a new life among the hobos, such as 'E.E.,' the mayor of the camp. 'Navy Neal,' another hobo that serves as a nurse, glares suspiciously at Shelton, but the boy brushes away concern.

Later, tragic events occur that change the hobo camp, as well as the boys, forever. Jumping ahead in time, Shelton has turned thirty and returned to Overture to see Richie as part of an agreement that they had made when the boys were runaways. Shelton has had recurring nightmares about the past and hopes that this trip will help him heal.

The author actually begins with Shelton on his return trip to Overture and has him tell his story in a series of flashbacks, a technique that works well since readers get a break from the intense events of Shelton's past. The characters are defined clearly and the settings have concrete descriptions. Also, the dialogue was generally captivating, except for excessive swearing in a few instances.

Moreover, the plot is mostly believable, since women with abusive spouses often endure the beatings, as Richie's mother did. And, parents can drift apart after losing a child, similar to Shelton's mother and father. However, teachers missing the obvious signs of abuse on Richie seems far-fetched, but, unfortunately, life can mimic fiction.

Train of Consequences is an adventurous story that shows the destructive effects of abuse, giving readers lessons that they will never forget.

- Zahra Syeda Hamdani,