Review: Anthony (Survivor Stories #4) by J.P. Barnaby

Aaron Downing worshiped his mother. She saved his life. She did everything for him. But Anthony Downing has a different perspective. He sees the woman who tossed him into a basement for eight long years and forgot he existed. When Anthony decides he’s done being invisible, he packs up and heads for Detroit to stay with his Internet friend Jay, but fate intervenes.

Brendan Mears lost everything the day the man with a gun came into his father’s store. Now, he’s tethered to a business he can’t manage and a brother who resents him.

Different in all the ways that matter, Anthony and Brendan struggle to overcome their psychological obstacles, until a crushing betrayal sends them running for cover and each other.

Anthony made me sad in the beginning. The impact on his life as the family member of a kidnapping survivor is explored in a compelling journey of a boy to be seen, heard, and loved.

This story could be read as a standalone, but it’s probably better to get the background story in Aaron. That is where this all begins, and is important in understanding Anthony’s state of mind. I will say that it is covered very well in this story, so even if the reader hasn’t read Aaron first, it is explained well enough throughout, and the reader gets a good understanding of what happened all those years ago.

Feeling invisible, and that his life stopped mattering after his brother was rescued from being tortured and almost killed eight years before, Anthony has had enough. He is graduating, has a crush on his best-friend Chase, and after an awful night where Chase turns on him, he is at breaking point. He wants to matter to someone, and an internet friend feels like the only one who cares about him. In a fit of rage and self-pity, Anthony packs his belongings into his car and sets off to meet his friend Jay, traveling from the outskirts of Chicago, to Detroit, without telling his family where he is going.

As if his life isn’t bad enough, his car breaks down outside a liquor store just a few miles and a few hours too late to meet his friend. Alone without a phone, sleeping in his car, Anthony’s life just couldn’t seem to get any worse.

Patrick and Bren had their lives changed dramatically when Bren and his father were shot in the family-owned liquor store two years before, killing his father, and wounding Bren. Bren is now housebound, and has panic attacks often. Patrick has had to come back from Ohio to take care of Bren and the store. Things just don’t seem to be getting better for either brothers but that doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting to help Anthony, who at first, reminds him of a younger version of his brother, but on closer inspection is a younger version of himself, with all the chains that choke them as the family members of trauma survivors.

Having read Aaron, I jumped at the chance to read about his brother. Anthony is still a teenager, and it interested me to see the world from the point of view of less obvious victims of a traumatic event.

This story was compelling, and I was drawn to Anthony and the way he viewed his life as a result of his brother’s trauma and recovery. The emotions were vivid and packed a punch in a way that conveyed all the feelings of frustration at being pushed aside in favour of the hurt child. I can imagine this would impact every aspect of a sibling's life, injure them in a way that is unintentional, but damaging none-the-less.

Patrick as a character worked well for me. He is also an unintended victim of his brother’s trauma. Bren is still deeply wounded, psychologically, and can’t see the woods for the trees. He is completely immersed in his own darkness, and although he knows how much pressure his brother is under, he just can’t give enough of himself to change it. Patrick is the perfect mentor for Anthony, and their bond is wonderful to witness. To be clear, there is nothing romantic about it, it is a friendship, and a foundation that Anthony, and Patrick both need. A commiseration and kinship that tells them they are not alone.

Anthony and Bren build a friendship, that changes something fundamental in Bren. Suddenly he is thinking about more. Anthony makes him feel not so lonely, and Anthony feels wanted by Bren.

This story focused more on Anthony as an individual, and his growth and development as an adult. While the relationship between Anthony and Bren is there, it is not the main story, nor is this about Bren’s psychology. I appreciated that. I thought it was good move by the author. Ensuring that Anthony is seen as a whole person, an individual, and an adult in his own right before developing an adult relationship with someone who is damaged. Some of the threads of the story, I feel are open to new stories. There is a fair bit going on, and it was nice to see those threads as potential stories that would be tied into this series. I don’t know if the author has plans for more for The Survivor Series, but it’s nice to see the option is there.

The story flowed well, and there wasn’t an overly complicated plot. It had the depth required for this type of story, without getting overly dark. There was certainly the threat, and someone else may have taken the seeds in this story and went too far. This was perfect in its restraint, and I completely appreciate J.P. Barnaby’s ability to write a compelling story without over complicating it.

I felt connected more to Anthony and Patrick than to Bren. Bren’s story feels like something separate. It is ironic that Anthony would be drawn to someone who has similar fears and trauma that his brother had, but not so unbelievable given that Aaron’s symptomatic psychology wasn’t really the problem, it was the parents lacking in ability to give enough to all their children while trying to save one. It does give him the ability to be more direct, less tentative, and more understanding. This makes for good relationship building.

This story ultimately made me feel good. I enjoyed my time with Anthony, seeing how he developed, and his personality. I would recommend this to most readers of MM romance.

Check out on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

No comments:

Post a Comment