The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: January 20th 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Hospital walls have no memory. They would crumble under the weight of so much suffering. It’s better that they forget.”

Andrew Brawley barely escaped Death the night his family died, and now he spends his days living in the hospital avoiding her. Much of his time is spent in the ER, in the pediatrics ward, serving food in the cafeteria, or working on his comic: Patient F. When the boy on fire is wheeled into the ER, Andrew’s life changes. He needs to get to know this mysterious boy, find out what happened to him; and maybe even fall in love.

This book is odd, to put it nicely. A boy managing to live in a hospital unnoticed for such a long time isn’t really believable. Hutchinson does his best to suspend disbelief. He explains how Andrew makes money, how he avoids being caught…but it still feels rather out there. Everything has to fall in line and continue to fall in line for such a long time to allow the characters to live this life and that sort of strangeness is hard to push past in a contemporary novel.

The protagonist himself is weird. Andrew is clearly delusional and not attached with reality. We can see the symptoms of his survivor’s guilt and mental instability manifest through the brilliant Patient F comics that appear between chapters. While the comic itself is definitely interesting, it’s hard to connect with Andrew. Most of the characters feel…distant or strange. This is likely because of Andrew’s clear detachment from reality but it makes the book hard to read.

Although classified as a romance novel, I found it particularly lacking in this department. There was enough going on without the romance with Rusty, and since the romance was intended to be the focus it should have been give FAR more pages. It’s barely developed, Hutchinson brushes against the two boys for a moment then rushes to another subplot. It uses love in the style of Romeo and Juliet, i.e. the two characters barely know each other and proceed to be over dramatic as though they’ve had a real relationship.

Aside from Patient F, unraveling Andrews’s story was the other well executed part of the novel. It was incredibly satisfying to find out who Andrew was in bits and pieces, as well as who Death was. Hutchinson could have had a excellent book about self-discovery and recovering from a tragedy had he decided to focus more on these key parts.

The book had heart, the problem was that Andrew wasn’t it. Trevor and Lexi were a fantastic and compelling love story; if a little cliche. In fact more pages were devoted to those two than to Andrew and Rusty, the supposed protagonists.

The book had some brilliant writing, it’s just a shame it was wasted on a rushed romance and a sort of bland protagonist. It panned out to be sort of average for a contemporary young adult novel. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t terribly memorable either.

BUY THE BOOK

Read this if you’re a fan of: The Fault in our Stars

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