In Stephen Barker’s Deadwater Lane, we are introduced to teenager Christo Edmonds who is at the end of his sentence in a juvenile detention facility after a drag racing car accident that left one man dead. Christo can’t remember much of that night due to a head injury, but apparently he was the one to blame.
The first half of the book is from Christo’s first person perspective, and he is a delightful narrator. He is quirky, and his missing memory and wandering thoughts make for an interesting read from his point of view. This part of the book shuffles from present to past tense in an odd manner however. I suspect it is supposed to help the reader recognise what is a returning memory of Christo’s and what is happening now, but it doesn’t flow as well as it could. Nevertheless, Christo’s point of view is a fun read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly during his interactions with Jimmy, the old man Christo is helping out for community service.
It is this enjoyment of this half of the book that made the rest of it fall flat for me, unfortunately. Just over halfway through the book, it shifts to third person. It is jolting, confusing, and took away what I was enjoying most about the book in the first place – Christo’s narrative. I’m not sure why the change is necessary – even though it offers some scenes that didn’t involve Christo directly, the third person narrative is strangely omniscient the whole time – meaning it doesn’t get into any other character’s head. This is a dramatic change from being in Christo’s head, and made me feel detached from the rest of the book.
The end returns to Christo once more, but it failed to draw me back in because it was too short, and its entirety was spent telling the reader what happened instead of showing it.
Deadwater Lane starts off really well, and Barker creates some unique and interesting characters – both the main characters and side characters were well rounded and intriguing. Sadly though, it lacked the consistency to engage me to the end.
Deadwater Lane, by Stephen Barker is available as a paperback or ebook. For more information, got to www.stephenbarker.co.nz.