Stories in 3rd person normally see readers simply stare at the words that come to pass in the initial stages. They are somewhat clueless witnesses to what is going on, and where it’s all going. Brody gives us company in that respect - through his protagonist, Alex. This is his story, in 1st person.
For much of the story, nay, almost its entirety, we witness Alex - the juvenile criminal recently out of detention - get inducted to a more normal life. It is difficult at first. The guy has had a tormented childhood and he is now in a lavish setting, thanks to his suddenly-rich elder brother. As he claims, all he knows until then is to hate and is therefore, one of those people who doesn’t belong with normal people. My first question then: What is normal? Hate is what we all do, somewhat likeably at times. To rebel is an inherent characteristic. In the words of Alex, we are often pissed just because we can be pissed. So that’s hate and anger, followed closely by guilt when, to quote the protagonist once again, we feel there is nothing that can save our soul, that there is a monster that will just not leave. In all respects, this is what normal sounds like. And that is what the author seems to try to establish. For, his objective is not to make us feel at peace with this normalcy. It is to make us feel at peace. Period.
Brody Lane’s diary-narration is slow but written inquisitively enough to keep us engaged as to how the charity case teenager will take to a new life of decency. For most part, we are back to school, witnessing brewing infatuation, bullying, new friends, awkward church visits on Sunday and adjusting in a new family. Then suddenly there is a touch of incest, then of drugs, then of murder. It put me under some doubt as to what the author was trying to portray, until towards the latter half, the pages made the answer evident. This story is about believing in God, and giving Him a chance to get us out of the mess that life throws at us. You could be forgiven for thinking of this as a typical sermon. If it is that, it is one that entertains while being so. And just when you think the characters had reached a happily-ever-after in the arms of the almighty, Brody delivers a killer punch.
I confess to having thought for almost the entire story that I had the author’s noble incentive figured out. Having just turned over the last page, I now stand amused. Beyond the Skyline does not refer to the skyline of New York or even that of our conscience. It does not intend to tell us what to do or not do, the right or the wrong. In its own way, it simply asks us to be. And to do so with happiness, however and whoever we are.
As one of the teenagers states in a most refreshing way, “being cool is overrated, it’s being a freak like us that counts.” This freak has tattoos, is nearly gothic, is brash and flirts. But she is also a friend, a daughter, someone who understands, is sober and is concerned for other’s wellbeing. That is how Mr. Lane brings us to a closure, and despite the unexpected heartbreak he leaves us with, we do not feel the pain. It’s beautiful.
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