Verdict: WHERE DO THE CHILDREN PLAY? has a captivating plot and interesting if not somewhat one-dimensional characters, but has a point of view shift that can be confusing.
Wesley and his identical twin brother, Rory, are growing old in the foster care system, so they’re just happy that a family—any family—wants to adopt them. But their new mother is not as nice as she first appeared to be, and when photographs of the twins start appearing alongside newspaper articles of a kidnapped and allegedly murdered little boy, Wesley is determined to uncover the truth about the crime and his own history.
We meet the twins when they are five or six years old, about to be adopted by the Barnes family. At first, they appear to be a normal, fifties-era suburban family: the boys are introduced to a multi-bedroom house with a lawn and a dog, finished off with Mr. Barnes throwing some burgers on the grill. Then, for seemingly no reason, Mrs. Barnes becomes mean. Her meanness is multi-dynamic and interesting—at first it is whipping Rory with a belt for getting into a fight at school, then evolves into telling the boys every night how no one else wanted to adopt them, and then making the boys sit on her lap while she uses the toilet. It is disturbing and causes the reader to feel as much fear for Mrs. Barnes as the boys do. The fact that she turned on them for no apparent reason makes her appear almost cartoonishly evil, but it does make sense from a five-year-old’s perspective that someone would turn on them over nothing. Many of the characters are written in this way, with one main personality trait: Rory is quiet, Mr. Barnes is nice, Mrs. Barnes is mean—but all of these serve to enhance the child’s perspective of how the world and the people in it function.
But is it in a five-year-old boy’s perspective? If there is one distracting issue with WHERE DO THE CHILDREN PLAY? it is with its tone. Its prologue, which—like the rest of the book—is written in the first person through Wesley’s perspective, discusses receiving his birth certificate when he came of age and reflects on the severity of all the events that occur in the book, which gives the impression of a story being told by an older man reflecting on something that occurred during his youth. However, the way certain elements in the story are explained makes it sound like a child trying to recount something to an adult: lines like “The bedroom down the hall…the master bedroom (that’s what Mrs. Barnes called it)” makes it sound as if the narrator doesn’t know firsthand what a master bedroom is, which makes it sound like the narrator is still a child. While both an adult reflection and a firsthand child’s perspective would make an interesting story, the perspective shifts throughout, making it hard to understand what the narrator does and doesn’t know.
WHERE DO THE CHILDREN PLAY? has a captivating plot and interesting if not somewhat one-dimensional characters, but has a point of view shift that can be confusing.
~Jess Costello for IndieReader