3 out of 4 stars
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Pending Return is a young adult novel by S.A. Gensch. In the last summer before their senior year of high school, Mitch and Steve are getting jobs and saving up for their eighteenth birthdays, when they will finally be able to move out together and get Steve away from his horrible father. Having grown up just a few houses down from each other, Mitch’s family has always been there for Steve, who would rather live with his abusive father than be put away in foster care. When Steve suddenly goes missing one afternoon, his father doesn’t even seem to care. Mitch is convinced that Steve’s dad had something to do with Steve’s disappearance, but even the authorities can’t find evidence to suggest anything other than Steve being a runaway. With his older brother also in the process of moving out, Mitch finds himself in the midst of an emotional battle, losing both his brother (his biggest ally) as well as his best friend with no sort of closure.
Without giving away any spoilers, I think it’s necessary to mention that this book has just a tiny bit of a supernatural feel to it. I wouldn’t classify this book as supernatural, but there are definitely some moments in the story that make you question whether or not certain events were real or imaginary. Could that have really happened in real life? Even with these slight supernatural/paranormal twists, the book has a very realistic feel to it, and it reads much like a memoir. I would not be surprised at all to learn that this book was based on real events.
The main protagonist in the story, Mitch, is wonderfully portrayed as an in-depth, emotional character. It is easy to understand how helpless and lonely he feels because of his best friend’s disappearance. There is also something extremely beautiful about the strength of the friendship between Mitch and Steve that is put on display with this book. Friends are sometimes more meaningful than family, and this book demonstrates just how powerful friendship can be. In general, the emotions that are portrayed in this book are amazing, and a few tears even managed to sting my eyes as I read this book because I could so easily connect with Mitch on an emotional level.
The only negative aspect of the book was the editing. While the story itself is pretty well written, the missing commas throughout the book are extremely noticeable. There is a difference in meaning between saying, “I know Mitch,” and “I know, Mitch.” Unfortunately, the abundance of missing commas threw off the overall flow of the story.
Overall, I give Pending Return a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. With some additional editing, I would love to give it a perfect rating due to the wonderful characterization of Mitch and the emotions of friendship and brotherhood that are displayed throughout the text. I recommend this book to young adult readers who enjoy realistic fiction. Anyone who has ever had the experience of losing a friend, whether through such drastic measures or not, will feel a strong connection with this book.
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