3 out of 4 stars
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Like a thief in the night, Johnny leaves the land of his father for the land of sunshine. Armed with nothing but a poet’s inspiration, he conceives that he needs to break the “old country ways” where parents show little interest in their kids. As well, in a country where acquaintances are superficial and many, Johnny finds a true friend in his elder sister, Michelle; not only does she agree to accompany him blindly to the new land—to help him settle—but also acts as a go-between with their parents.
Heading out westwards from Michigan, it’ll take much, even so, for John to discover the contentment in living, something he so desperately hopes for. As one who is coming of age, he learns that his sources of revelation can be as diverse and confounding as they come. In one moment, he’s inspired by the long road trip to Denver, Colorado, as he gets drawn to the beauty of the mountains; yet in another, by an illicit but seductive love affair with a more mature woman (Debbie), which relationship barely lasts till dawn. Will John manage to create a life that is distinct from the one of indifference he’s known under his parents?
In his novel Vanquished We Ride, J. L. Marquee takes on the persona of John to narrate to us the challenges and opportunities of being young in America. While at it, he also brings out the physical and socio-economic differences that subsist across various states of America, which lead to the migration of people from one state to the other. As an example, John finds it difficult to make ends meet, especially with his girlfriend, Kat, keeping him on his toes. What’s more, because of his educational background, his career options are limited, and oftentimes, put him in a moral quandary.
Regardless, I liked the fact that the novel’s plot allowed John to further his education, despite the challenges brought up by his parents. Equally commendable was the fact that other unusual career options—such as serving in the military, as was the case with John’s friend, Reggie—were cast in a positive light. Additionally, the novel highlights contemporary problems faced by the youth, including alcoholism, drug addiction, theft, unwanted pregnancy, and prostitution.
Written in an animated tone, the novel kept me entertained as I followed the intertwined lives of a bunch of friends, consisting of five boys and three girls, in the early ‘80s. The novel presented a world of merriment centered on club and house parties. Eventually, as is often the case, the novelty of the indulgence wore off. It was, then, interesting to read about how the different characters, more so John, coped with the rebound effect brought about by continuous use of drugs and alcohol.
As I finish, this YA fiction novel equips its readers with vital information to help them steer into adulthood in relative safety. On the flip side, I identified several editing errors that are enough to affect the rating of the book. These consist of fragmented sentences, tense errors, and incorrect words applied in sentences. All in all, I enjoyed reading the story, and I feel it’ll be equally suited to both high school-age students and adults.
Lastly, I was impressed by the wholesome and poetic language used by the author: poetic lovers should check it out. My rating of the book is 3 out of 4 stars.
Vanquished We Ride
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