By M. Scott Carter
Available now from The Roadrunner Press
I decided to through another small press book into my 48 Hour Book Challenge pile. The RoadRunner Press's Director of Sales and Marketing sold me on the book at the second day of the Texas Library Association Convention, but had run out of copies. Luckily, I was able to go back early the next to pick up a copy of STEALING KEVIN'S HEART.
Political reporter M. Scott Carter's debut young adult novel is the story of Alex Anderson, who saw his best friend Kevin Rubenstein die in a drunk driving accident. Feeling guilty and adrift, Alex falls into a suicidal depression. His parents decide to send him to a counseling camp, where he meets Rachel, a Texas girl escaping her ex and recovering from heart surgery.
STEALING KEVIN'S HEART is definitely an issue novel. Issues addressed range from depression to bullying to rape to organ donation. It's a lot to pack into a novel that also has a prominent romance. It's tough for an experienced author to give so many weighty issues their due in a single book, and STEALING KEVIN'S HEART does show a lack of polish. Many problems are solved quickly, often with a single enlightening speech.
There are moments of powerful emotion. The flashback to Kev's death and the aftermath choked me up. The scene where Danny first beats Rachel is genuinely shocking. But Alex's story often feels like an excuse for after school set pieces than a meaty exploration of his psyche. The narration between scenes is clumsy, with frequent unsubtle foreshadowing like ". . . so everything was just about perfect. Of course, it couldn't stay that way (201)."
I am willing to be lenient with STEALING KEVIN'S HEART since it is a debut novel. And, honestly, I admire ambition and STEALING KEVIN'S HEART has that in spades. If you're interested in organ donation or enjoy books that tackle tough topics, go ahead and give STEALING KEVIN'S HEART a chance. It wasn't visceral enough for me, but I think Carter could write a story to pierce my hard heart.