THE BENEVOLENT LORDS OF SOMETIMES ISLAND by Scott Semegran is a coming-of-age thriller that, in its own way, offers a positive critique of William Golding’s bleak, LORD OF THE FLIES. Instead of creating a cutthroat colony dominated by social Darwinism and pagan bloodthirstiness, THE BENEVOLENT LORDS OF SOMETIMES ISLAND instead shows the power of friendship and its ability to uphold moral virtues.
Set in the hot summer of 1986, the story focuses on four best friends—William Flynn, Randy Moss, Brian Johnson, and Miguel Gonzalez. These seventh (soon to be eighth) graders are average kids growing up in Converse, Texas, a cozy suburb of San Antonio. However, all is not well in Converse. The suburb is ruled by a vicious youth group called the Thousand Oaks gang. The “benevolent lords,” the nickname for the four friends at the heart of the yarn, run afoul of the Thousand Oaks thugs and their leader, “Bloody Billy.” Things take a mighty interesting turn when, following their retreat in the face of a school security guard, the Thousand Oaks boys leave behind a backpack. William, the novel’s narrator, scoops up the item and shows it off to his friends. It turns out to contain marijuana and lots of illicit cash. In order to avoid a pummeling from Bloody Billy, the boys decide to hideout at an abandoned house in Canyon Lake, an indisputably spooky location.
THE BENEVOLENT LORDS OF SOMETIMES ISLAND is a well-written, neo-classical adventure story with a heart of gold. The boys represent a cross-section of American society: there is an African American, a Latino, and two Anglos. Some are Catholic, while others are Protestant. More to the point, each boy is given unique characteristics, such as Miguel’s love of history or William’s dreams of becoming a writer and artist. All is told through the eyes of an adult William, who uses his words and reminiscence to paint a nostalgic picture of what could have been a massacre. The tale is a nice antidote to fatalistic fiction and although its story has the hallmarks of a dark and foreboding thriller, Semegran’s cheerful writing and clear love of his young characters helps the idealism of innocence to shine through.
THE BENEVOLENT LORDS OF SOMETIMES ISLAND is a fantastic coming-of-age thriller that puts a positive spin on troubled adolescence.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader