4 out of 4 stars
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Sonya McCall is running to leave her old life behind. Trey Radisson is running for reasons he himself does not even know. They are thrown together by circumstances, or perhaps divine intervention, as Sonya would say. They experience capture, escape, going into hiding, and finally striking back with unexpected help.
Chrome Mountain quickly throws contrasts one after another, perhaps slightly unusual but nonetheless effective in painting various pictures about Sonya’s life. Flashbacks imply an act of rebellion in taking to the streets despite an apparent Christian upbringing with her grandmother. Her eventual disillusionment with gang life slowly pushes her to return to faith. Her return appears to start reluctantly, but it eventually grows with the genuine joy of one who truly enjoys and internalizes what she has believed in. For instance, she speaks to Trey of her newfound faith, which is a convincing sign that she finds her faith is worth sharing. The character development of Trey also shows him growing physically, emotionally, and socially.
It is not very common to see a Christian-themed book getting into the gritty details of gang life and murder. This book dares to go into that territory, and provides a darker but more realistic view of life. Because of this, the transition from darkness to light is more pronounced. More traditional Christian themes are present. Sonya’s gradually changing character is also evident in several aspects, such as willingness to step in the line of fire to save others, as well as moving from coarser, expletive-laden speech to more gentle, constructive words. Trey’s observation of wrong actions leading to something good being a matter of divine purpose is another common reflection that Christians have.
The descriptions of locations are very well done, and there is no feeling of repetitive words being used. The author has a brand of humor that would probably be akin to deadpan humor if it was spoken, such as the sudden use of a (usually terrified) bystander’s point of view when describing a high-adrenaline scene. The story is quite fast-paced. Some of the more stereotypical twists are probably expected, but the timing with which the twists are executed prevents this from getting too predictable.
A couple of very minor details bothered me, such as how Zuri doesn’t sound like a Filipino name, and whether it’s actually possible for Trey to visually identify someone as a “North Korean” rather than just a “Korean”. Of course, there could be perfectly acceptable explanations for these, and I don't find these details worth glossing over as they help in framing the context.
The novel appears to be professionally edited, and I did not find a single typo. This book would most likely appeal to people who can appreciate how faith, particularly the Christian faith, can change someone’s attitude and lifestyle. Although the details about gang life and violence may be shunned by more conservative readers, these add to the realism of the story and nothing is too explicit. For this reason, I give this novel 4 out of 4 stars.
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