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Book Review: Man Down by James Goodhand

A coming-of-age story with supernatural elements and one heck of an ending. Warning for toxic masculinity, drugs, suicidal ideation, homophobia, some violence and death.

By Marie SinadjanPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 3 min read

Will Parks is being followed.

Someone is watching him, feeding him glimpses of the future - steering him down paths he would never have dared to take alone.

But these supernatural tip-offs are doing more for Will than just boosting his popularity, or keeping him out of trouble in the dead-end town he calls home. They have a purpose.

Because a tragedy is coming. One that only Will can prevent. But only if he is ready to step up. Only if he's prepared to become the man he's meant to be.

GENRE: YA Thriller/Drama


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Goodhand lives in Surrey with his wife and newborn son. He took up writing three years ago. A mechanic by day, much of his work has been written at an oil stained workbench whilst ignoring a queue of broken cars in need of his attention. He is also a keen musician, regularly gigging as a rhythm & blues pianist.

James’ debut YA novel, Last Lesson, tackling teen mental illness and toxic masculinity, was published in spring 2020 by Penguin Random House Children’s.

Review & Recommended Listening

It starts with:

Will Parks is no longer alone.

This is the precise instant it begins. He is being watched. Followed. Everywhere.

I have to show that because it's important. If you've read the book, you already know why. If not, you're going to be on one heck of a ride.

When I first read those lines, I wasn't sure if this was a ghost story or something more sinister, like having a creepy stalker. I didn't get the Goodreads blurb (the one I pasted up above) but rather the Amazon one, which goes a little differently:

Will Parks needs to man up.

A man stands. A man fights. A man bleeds .

These are the first lessons you learn in a town where girls are objects, words are weak and fists do the talking.

Will's more at home in the classroom than the gym, and the most important woman in his life is his gran. So how can a boy who's always backed away from a fight become the hero who saves the day?

Because a disaster is coming. One that Will can prevent. But only if he learns the most important lesson of all: sometimes to step up, you have to man down.

Okay, sure, it works and it's true to a point, because this is a story about toxic masculinity. But I'd have been more enthusiastic with the promise of the supernatural and glimpses of the future, because I also happen to love time travel and fate/destiny stuff. Even without that, though, I kept going. The premise was interesting and I couldn't find it in me to put the book down.

Eventually, we find out that there is a ghost. Of sorts. We just don't know who it is, and I certainly kept guessing until the end. And the end, by the way, is simply brilliant. The author practically yanked the floor from under my feet and left me lying on my back and staring at the stars in awe. Because I literally cheered. Or, more accurately, I took my elation to Twitter and capslocked at Mr. Goodman.

I loved it that much, okay. The payoff at the end was so worth it.

The story showed a multilayered perspective of things and had complex, real characters. The protagonist, Will, is thrust into situations where he's "left without a choice," but it's written thoughtfully that he doesn't become a character who simply reacts to things. You can see his growth for yourself throughout the story, as well as the development of the key people around him.

Overall, it was a great read. And, again, props to the storytelling. THAT ENDING, and how everything led us to that moment. *chef's kiss*

I also learned British slang and stuff from the story, which was validated as I settled into my new country. That was unexpectedly helpful, in a way!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Recommended Listening: As I mentioned in my open call for books to review, I’ll now be adding a song to my reviews! It’ll be one that either sums up the book for me, what I’d imagine in a trailer were it a movie, something that I associate with the story or one of the characters for whatever reason… or maybe even an original inspired by it 😉

And I keep going to the river to pray

'Cause I need something that could wash all this pain

And at most I'm sleeping all these demons away

And it's your ghost

The ghost of you that keeps me awake

book reviews

About the Creator

Marie Sinadjan

Filipino spec fic author and book reviewer based in the UK. •

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    Marie SinadjanWritten by Marie Sinadjan

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