Theresa Linden excels as a storyteller. She assembles her characters from complex webs of conflict and mystery. Her penchant for plot shifts and action commands the reader’s attention. Her proclivity toward trilogies reflects her dedication to the writing craft and her desire to please her readers with a magnificent literary landscape.
Roland West, Loner, the first volume in her West Brothers trilogy, introduces the pageant’s cast. Roland, the loner has two special reasons to avoid company, his older brothers. Jarret, handsome, intelligent and powerful, but also narcissistic, manipulative and amoral. Keefe, Jarret’s twin and puppet, collaborates as Jarret bullies Roland. Jarret believes that Roland is his father’s favorite. He mercilessly schemes to destroy Roland’s reputation in their father’s eyes so that he and not Roland would accompany Mr. West on a business trip to Italy. Although adult caretakers run the West’s mansion in absence of the boys’ traveling father, Jarret controls the lives of his brothers, easily circumventing and even subverting the authority of the adults. Roland remains hopelessly trapped in the West’s castle of a house.
Roland’s freedom comes from the most unlikely of liberators. Once on the loose he hides out with a classmate, Peter Brandt, whose bedroom is so messy, he could easily conceal Roland in the clutter. Roland’s existence as a loner has not prepared him for life on the run. He’s not sure if he can trust Peter. He meets and is attracted to the red-headed, emerald-eyed Caitlyn Summer, who causes him to rethink his loner status.
The struggle rages between the dominant Jarret who will use violence, intimidation and lies to compromise his brother, and Roland, the innocent and vulnerable who hopes that their father detects Jarret’s ploys. The melee plays out to the last sentence of the novel and vibrates through the subsequent volumes of the trilogy.
Although a young-adult novel, Roland West, Loner offers a compelling read to a wide audience.