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All We Can Do Is Wait

Review

All We Can Do Is Wait

Richard Lawson's debut novel, ALL WE CAN DO IS WAIT, tells the story of five teenaged strangers who form a bond in the midst of a terrible tragedy.

Boston is, unfortunately, no stranger to tragedy. But after a major bridge collapses, everyone is left reeling and in the dark. No one knows why it happened or who was hurt; or if they'll ever see their loved ones again. All anyone can do is go to Boston General Hospital and wait for the news that, no matter the outcome, will be life-changing.

In the waiting room is where we meet siblings Alexa and Jason, and teens Morgan, Skyler and Scott, who are all waiting to hear word on their parents, sister and girlfriend, respectively. In these hours that leave most feeling isolated, these five young strangers create their own support group.

This novel, told in multiple points of view and then-and-now narration, will leave readers aching; not just because of a big tragedy, but because of all the little ones scattered throughout the characters’ lives.

Richard Lawson's debut novel is like a more high-stakes The Breakfast Club combined with a less intense take on “Grey's Anatomy.”

"Lawson's writing was impeccable, his descriptions of the environments were vivid, and the characters tangible....Richard Lawson essentially nailed it."

ALL WE CAN DO IS WAIT is an emotionally draining book, to say the least. It was not a book I could finish in just one sitting, despite its small size. Richard Lawson starts the book off with a prologue. In that prologue, we get a tiny glimpse into the lives of the people who were on the bridge as it collapsed: parents trying to get to a school meeting, high school students going on a road trip, families going to visit relatives. Everything was normal until it wasn't. In just four pages, Lawson will have you hooked and choked up, even if you aren't a particularly emotional reader.

As I said, the prologue will have readers absolutely hooked. However, that compulsion to read might falter as you go a bit further into the book if you're expecting an action-packed, heart-pounding, edge of your seat read. Instead, readers will find themselves faced with a tender, heart-wrenching book that could make a flawless transition to the big screen.

ALL WE CAN DO IS WAIT consists of a ton of backstory. As a reader who always requests backstories for characters, even I found myself wanting the excessive reminiscing to stop. The book feels as though it's approximately 90% backstory. Just when you think you're finally going to get some current story going, you're jolted back in time. I assume the purpose of cutting back in time so often was to help create anticipation. Rather than do that, though, it created a lot of annoyance, personally. With a premise like this, you want to be in the now, you want to know what is happening; you want to see these characters interact and deal with the situation they're in. The amount of backstory each character had took away from that. In fact, it seems that for me at least, the more backstory a character had, the less I liked them.

I think the problem with this is that Lawson was trying to tell too many stories at once. Instead of focusing on one storyline, he tells several. Lawson creates other smaller stories from the characters’ lives so that those little stories can be a part of a bigger, separate story. Unfortunately, the payoff just wasn't there. So Lawson is trying to accomplish a lot while still not entirely focusing on the one big plot point that's brought the characters together. The author's ambition is great and well appreciated but for a first time novel, it proved to be just a bit too much.

Overall, that was the only flaw I could find with ALL WE CAN DO IS WAIT. Lawson's writing was impeccable, his descriptions of the environments were vivid, and the characters tangible. For a debut --- for a book in general --- Richard Lawson essentially nailed it. His storytelling will only improve. Once he has a solid grasp on a singular story he wants to tell, it will no doubt be excellent.

Reviewed by Olivia W., Teen Board Member on March 27, 2018

All We Can Do Is Wait
by Richard Lawson