“Beyond the Skyline” by Brody Lane Gregg

Summary

Alex Lane is getting released from a juvenile detention center at eighteen years old for reasons he doesn’t want you to know about. Writing has become his outlet, and he shares his story beginning when he gets picked up on his release day by his estranged brother, Brandon. Turns out, Brandon is now a millionaire living with his wife and daughter in a New York mansion. Alex gets to stay with them, but soon learns his end of the deal is going to high school. Out of his element, Alex goes to school, quickly finding a band of misfits who befriend him as well as trouble. Then there’s the girl he met at his sister-in-law’s church, Ana. Alex feels something for her, but he thinks he’s just the same criminal who doesn’t deserve anyone or anything. As he tries to move on with life, making friendships and learning to love, Alex resolve is tested when he asks himself if he is worthy of this new life, or if he has really changed at all.

The Pros

Told through Alex’s journal entries, the reader gets a deep first person narration of the story. Alex’s voice is strong throughout the story, and though he’s a rough, broken young man, the author keeps the narrative clean of any foul language. As the story progresses, the reader can see how Alex is changing because of the people he meets, the stories he hears, and the circumstances he faces. Alex’s story is a strong proof of God’s redemptive power to change anyone’s story.

The friendships, situations, and relationships in Beyond the Skyline are realistic, portraying issues that many young adults face today. The author, Brody Lane Gregg, provides insight into characters dealing with abuse, rape, drug addictions, alcoholism, and grief.

One of the underlying themes of the novel is breaking stereotypes, or judging people before you know them. Gregg reminds the reader that everyone has a story and unique hurts by including many characters with emotional baggage and backstory that makes them who they are.

The Cons

While I was engaged throughout the story, the pace isn’t overly fast until about three-quarters of the way through the novel. This isn’t a real issue since the narration is well done and I cared about the characters, however, when the pace did start to pick up it was a bit jarring and some of the events occurred with little lead-in.

Conclusion

Gregg does a masterful job telling Alex’s story through journal entries, and I got a clear sense of who Alex is, how he changes, and how he represents so many young adults today who need Jesus in their lives. This is a powerful and realistic portrayal of the Gospel’s redemptive power to change a life.

Make sure to get your copy of Beyond the Skyline, available on Amazon!

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“The Legacy” by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

Summary

Doug has drifted further from his parents and his faith in the last few years. At college, he is pursuing a career in graphic design with a passion for graphic novels. Doug and his friend, Jason, plan to enter a contest with their collaborative project, though Doug seems more interested working on it than Jason who prefers parties and smoking pot. Then there’s Doug’s girlfriend, Courtney, complicating his relationship with his parents and the girl he used to confide in back home, Christina. As Doug continues to work on the graphic novel and maintains a relationship with a girl he doesn’t genuinely care about, Doug realizes he is living a double life and must choose which version of himself he wants to be.

The Pros

Because Doug is a college student, he encounters many issues facing young adults today, including drinking, drugs, and premarital sex. Authors Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley handle these complex and controversial subjects with wisdom and finesse, discussing both sides of these issues and never lapsing into graphic displays of the aforementioned behaviors.

With Doug’s interest in graphic novels, there are some interesting settings, including a Comic Convention where attendees are dressed up as various superheroes. The reader also gets insight into their graphic novel project which is an adaptation of the Biblical Prodigal Son story, mirroring Doug’s own path.

The Cons

While the idea of a modern “Prodigal Son” story is interesting, I was not engaged with the characters. The Legacy is the fourth novel of Walsh and Smalley’s Restoration Series, which leads me to believe the characters in this novel are better developed in previous installments. However, even if that is the case, the pace of the story was very slow, especially when I didn’t care about the characters.

Conclusion

While I applaud Walsh and Smalley on their discussion of issues facing young adults today, I felt disappointed that such a promising adaptation of a wonderful Bible story fell short.

If you’re looking for a light, predictable, easy read, this might be a good book for you.

You can get a copy of The Legacy from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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