October 14, 2013

The Preservationist, by Justin Kramon

A few years back, I had the pleasure of reviewing Finny, Justin’s debut novel. So, while I was happy to hear he had a second book coming, I was particularly thrilled when he asked me to review The Preservationist.

Julia Stilwell is a college freshman grieving the loss of her brother, the fallout from which her family is still struggling to overcome. She’s also acclimating to a new school, lifestyle, and two mysterious suitors.

Sam Blount works in the snack bar of a small college in Pennsylvania. He’s much older than the students, but still relates to them, trading barbs and attending campus parties. Aside from being a bit socially awkward, he seems like a nice guy.

Marcus Broley is in one of Julia’s classes and takes an immediate interest in her. They go on a couple dates, but Julia quickly gets a taste of his overprotective side.

The novel alternates between these three narrators. It moves at a quick clip, from Julia and Marcus’ first date, to Sam’s pursuit and Julia’s wavering interest between the two men, and ultimately to a heated ending that you'd expect from any good thriller. 

It’s the usual thriller in its pace and plot arc, both of which I appreciated. I finished the book in a day while on vacation. For me, the difference between this and other thrillers is that the reader isn’t quite sure who the bad guy is until you're well into the story. 

There were times I wanted to smack Julia for her naivetĂ© and poor decision-making skills. But then I remembered I had an equally hard time fully discerning the truth behind these men – and I had the benefit of knowing what each one was thinking. I appreciated the little flecks of doubt Justin inserted into his story to keep me guessing until the moment I realized exactly what was happening and it was too late for Julia to do anything but succumb to her fate.

While Finny was a coming of age saga, this is more of a quick frolic. If we’re being honest, I would’ve preferred a little more depth to these characters, and a few more twists and turns (frankly, I'll say this about any thriller because I love a good twisty plot). However, there were enough twists to keep the predictability at bay. The alternating narration kept the plot moving and kept me turning the pages. 4 stars. 

**I received a free advanced copy of this book for review purposes, but my opinion is all my own!**

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