Joe always thought he’d spend the rest of his high school years in Ohio, with his dog and the McGuire family dairy cows. But when Joe’s father loses his part of the family business, Joe is forced to give up “the cowboy way” and move to the Florida suburbs. In the wake of that staggering upheaval, Joe’s family begins to implode—and his older brother, Connor, starts to teeter on the edge of a violent mental breakdown.
Familial relationships play a crucial role in A THIN PLACE. Joe’s feelings about his parents and his older brother are complex. Joe often struggles with the dichotomy of his unhappy home life and societal pressures to love and support his family members. The obligation to love people that have continually hurt him weighs heavily on him and he wrestles with a universal problem; it’s easy for readers of all backgrounds to empathize with his family-based struggles.
While Joe deals with the dissolution of his family, he also contends with the development of his own identity. Joe has a smart mouth and a combative personality that tend to make life harder for him. Throughout A THIN PLACE Joe learns that the world isn’t “black and white, prim and proper, right and wrong”, but instead “all kinds of gray”. A THIN PLACE is typically shelved under young adult fiction because of Joe’s teenage perspective, but the lessons he learns about morality and personal identity will appeal to adult readers, as well.
Joe’s family life and his journey into adulthood is the basis of the novel’s storyline, but A THIN PLACE has a romantic twist, too. Joe’s relationship with Ellen delves into the vibrant emotions of young love. The combination of Joe’s “wry” personality and Ellen’s “smart-aleck” attitude makes for a bevvy of snappy, entertaining banter. The inclusion of their romance in Joe’s narrative provides a unique insight into the beginnings of what turns out to be a lifelong partnership.
A THIN PLACE starts off slow, but quickly picks up steam. Joe’s ruminations on his relationships during the high school years of his life deepen the typical boy-meets-girl love story. The central conflict between Joe and his brother invites introspection while ratcheting up the tension throughout the novel.
David Weiskircher’s depiction of the complex relationships that make up a family and the process of a young man growing into adulthood makes A THIN PLACE an insightful read for a mature teenage reader or an adult looking to relive a slice of their formative teenage years .
~Stephani Hren for IndieReader