Book Reviews

The Promise of Living by J. Lee Graham

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Young Adult / Romance
Reviewed by Jamie Deacon on 05-February-2013

Book Blurb

The Promise of Living is a heartrending coming of age novel of sixteen-year-old Ryan Colton and his quest for his own authenticity. Ryan's mother died when he was young, and he and his father carve out a tenuous but trusting relationship. Ryan works on Lee Hemmer’s farm with his best friend Dave in Wilson's Ferry, New Hampshire, a stifling, small town where, in 1975, everyone, it seems, has something to hide. Ryan has a mysterious series of premonitions and visions that reveal the darker secrets of the townspeople. His gift becomes overwhelming when he visions a murky murder at the high school and cannot prevent its occurrence.

Ryan seeks the help of a Boston transfer student and a famous psychic to not only focus his gifts to solve the murder but to finally accept his own personal feelings for Dave. Ryan struggles with his own power of being different in the world and knows that the true resolution lies within him.

Book Review

Imagine knowing something terrible is about to happen, and yet being powerless to prevent it. This is the predicament sixteen-year-old Ryan Colton finds himself confronting in J. Lee Graham’s emotional novel. Though this is very much a story about self-acceptance, it’s also a poignant illustration of how we should treasure those we love while we can, because there’s no telling when they might be taken from us.

To Ryan, the small community of Wilson’s Ferry where everyone knows everyone else’s business, seems both stifling and mind-numbingly dull. He applies himself to his studies in the hope of getting into a good college, earns money laboring on a local farm, and dreams of one day exploring the wider world. If, somewhere deep inside, he’s aware that his feelings for his best friend Dave go beyond simple friendship, he chooses to ignore them. Everything continues as normal, until, during the summer before his final year of high school, Ryan experiences the first vision and his life changes forever.

Learning some of the town’s darker secrets is unpleasant enough, but the true horror sets in when he receives a premonition of a murder. Despite all his efforts, Ryan is unable to see clearly enough to identify either victim or killer, and so can do nothing to avert the tragedy. Utterly devastated, and desperate to gain control over his visions, Ryan enlists the help of Skylar, one of his more open-minded classmates, who introduces him to a psychic. As Ryan grows in confidence, mastering his gift in an attempt to unmask the murderer, he comes to terms with his sexuality and, in turn, his love for Dave.   

The Promise of Living certainly isn’t a novel for the faint hearted. It has more than its fair share of harrowing moments, and one twist in particular shocked me so much that I had to put the book down for a while before going back to it. For all the grimness, however, there are some tender scenes, and overall I found it incredibly inspirational. In defiance of the tough hand fate deals him, Ryan somehow comes through his ordeal, not only stronger, but the kind of young man any parent would be proud of.

If you enjoy novels that combine the clairvoyant with harsh reality, and which don’t shy away from the more disturbing aspects of life, you may well want to give this one a go.




DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the author for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 228 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 10-September-2012
Price $2.99 ebook, $8.95 paperback
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