Title: Still Waters by Ash Parsons
Publisher: Philomel Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Suspense/Thriller
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher through Penguin’s First to Read Program
A gritty, powerful debut that evokes The Outsiders. You won’t be able to look away.
High school senior Jason knows how to take a punch. Living with an abusive father will teach a kid that. But he’s also learned how to hit back, earning a reputation at school that ensures no one will mess with him. Even so, all Jason truly wants is to survive his father long enough to turn eighteen, take his younger sister, Janie, and run away.
Then one day, the leader of the in crowd at school, Michael, offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Jason figures Michael simply wants to be seen with someone with a tough rep and that the money will add up fast, making Jason’s escape plan a reality. Plus, there’s Michael’s girl, Cyndra, who looks at Jason as if she sees something behind his false smile. As Jason gets drawn deeper into Michael’s game, the money keeps flowing, but the stakes grow ever more dangerous. Soon, even Jason’s fists and his ability to think on his feet aren’t enough to keep his head above water.
Still Waters is an intense, gritty thriller that pulls no punches—yet leaves you rooting for the tough guy. A powerful, dynamic debut.
An absolutely haunting tale of abuse and manipulation, Still Waters is a stunning debut novel by Ash Parsons. Dark and violent, this young adult story is a mesmerizing psychological thriller with a compelling storyline and an unlikely hero.
Jason Roberts is no stranger to violence and he is fiercely protective of his younger sister, Janie. He meticulously plans every minute of his day with one goal in mind: stay out of the reach of his violent, ex-con and petty criminal father. Jason and Janie have devised a plan to escape their abusive father so when Michael Springfield, a popular student from a wealthy family, approaches him with a rather vague description of a well-paying job, Jason pushes aside his doubts and accepts his offer. What begins as a simple plan with Jason hanging out with Michael and his circle of friends soon spirals into one dangerous situation after another. Certain he has everything under control, Jason cannot resist the increasingly higher payoffs for each “job” but as he soon discovers, nothing is as simple as it appears and he is completely blindsided when he realizes the truth.
Jason is street smart and wise beyond his years due to his abusive home life. He has a well-earned tough guy reputation and no one messes with him, his sister or his best friend, Clay. He is a smart, loyal champion of the underdog and while he is extremely good at reading people, he seriously underestimates what he is getting into with Michael.
Michael is a well liked jock from an affluent, well respected family. With very little parental supervision, he is free to do just about whatever he wants and this has led him right into a problem with the wrong people. He concocts a rather brilliant scheme to reel Jason into his world and Michael then easily maneuvers the rest of his friends into carrying out his seemingly innocuous plans.
Jason glimpses the sometimes cruel streak Michael hides behind his mostly cheerful facade and he remains distrustful of Michael’s motive for hiring him. In order to dispel Jason’s suspicions, Michael tells a fairly believable story, but Jason is still pretty wary. Michael exploits Jason’s vulnerabilities and Jason unknowingly does exactly what Michael wants. By the time Jason realizes that he is in way over his head, will it be too late for him to escape the diabolical scheme that is waiting for him?
Still Waters is truly remarkable young adult story that offers a heartbreaking and realistic portrayal of a desperate attempt to escape a violent childhood. Jason and Janie are finely crafted, multi-dimensional and devastatingly sympathetic characters. The plot is well-developed and engaging with plenty of action to keep the pages turning at a blistering pace. The story is full of unexpected plot twists and Ash Parsons brings this phenomenal novel to an absolutely spectacular, action filled conclusion.
An utterly outstanding psychological thriller I highly recommend to readers of all ages.