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Brandon Jeffrey is dreading summer. His dad lost his job and his mom is overworked, but the arguments between his parents are the least of his troubles. Brandon's dad scares him, and because of that, Brandon simply doesn't want to be at home. It doesn't help that a friend trashed Brandon's car and he has to use his bike to get around.  However, now that he owes his dad big time for the auto's demise, it may be a blessing in disguise that Brandon is pretty busy taking on two jobs:  mowing neighbors' lawns and working at a record store in town called Fascination Street Records.

His summer becomes more complex when he tries to defend Seth Belcher --- a classmate who is earmarked "a loser" by Brandon's friends --- from the local bullies who incessantly terrorize him. And to top it off, fear grips his small and quiet town of Appleton when a student from his high school is brutally murdered and, worse yet, the killer is still on the loose.

A highly recommended read, this book reviewer is waiting with baited breath for the next in this completely enthralling series.

Amid all the turmoil, Brandon meets Marvella (Marvel) Garcia at Fascination Street Records. A beautiful Hispanic girl whose spiritual aura surrounds her sweet demeanor, Marvel becomes a breath of fresh air in Brandon's stale life. As he gets to know her, though, he learns that Marvel's life is far more complicated than his. She maintains an optimistic attitude nonetheless, which Brandon finds very alluring. But drawing closer to Marvel is not as easy as he thinks. As Brandon deals with his dad and becomes more involved with Marvel and Seth, his summer gets even more complicated --- he thinks that someone is stalking him.

In his first installment of the young adult series The Books of Marvella, Travis Thrasher has created a story of underdogs encircled by a glut of dysfunctional as well as bone-chilling sinister characters, all tightly woven around a handful of "just plain good folk." Brandon's distinctive role as narrator does not make him the sole player in this romantic mystery. Meeting Marvel is a serendipitous turning point in his stress-filled life, especially her audacious faith in God, which in Brandon's mind places Marvel on a maturity level that is well beyond her years. Though Marvel communicates words of wisdom that are inexplicably eloquent, Thrasher complements the narrative by keeping their dialogue to that of typical teens who are trying to figure out how they fit within the framework of a messed up world, and find solace along the way in the lyrics of a wide range of alternative rock groups.

Engaging, riveting, and, yes, very unnerving, MARVELOUS is not your trite coming-of-age book. In the course of continually evolving events and their accompanying problems, Thrasher offers YA readers plenty of "food for thought" to contemplate. A highly recommended read, this book reviewer is waiting with baited breath for the next in this completely enthralling series.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on April 29, 2014

by Travis Thrasher

  • Publication Date: April 18, 2014
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale
  • ISBN-10: 1612916236
  • ISBN-13: 9781612916231