Fast forward to now, where The Brave going into
[cut to save space but you should click it its good stuff]
"I'm not ready to [say goodbye]."
"I know you're not."
The book was ALSO better than I remembered. It is possible the two are creating a positive feedback loop as I go back and forth. That is the only way I can explain the fact that I have either read this book three times in 48 hours, or I have spent several hours reading it one time; IDK, all I know is that I have picked it up to read various scenes / chapters over and over, more times than I can count, because IT'S AMAZING. I actually looked for Goodreads discussions about it. I checked the Tumblr tag. I looked for classroom discussion websites. And having struck out thrice, I am just gonna have a damn party for it on my own Livejournal. Here's the Goodreads link; warning, I am gonna detail the ending at the end of this post.
To be sure, that the character ages don't line up -- Joe is 16 and Barbie and Julia are in their 30s; in the book, Foster is 12, Gary is estimated to be 25, and near as I can estimate, Foster's mother Linda is -- based on the phrase "I was driving these [trucks] 10 years before you were born"-- at least 38. Although it helps that my original impression was that Barbie was up to 5 years younger than Julia. Also, Gary is described as having black hair in a buzzcut (never mind the giant back tattoo of a skull in a beret), so you'd better believe I ignore everything about that description even when it's relevant to the text.
But that's beside the point. Let's talk about Gary. Like let's just list the wonderful things.
warning: from here on out it is a spoiler free-fall for the climax and near-ending of the book
For instance: the worst part of the book is that the mother's Evil Ex-Boyfriend Dax, not taking kindly to the disrespect of being made an "ex," poisons the kid's dog. Gary helps Foster bury him, and then he casually asks Foster where this Evil Ex might live, drives on over and proceeds to BASH HIS FACE IN. Literally, "I beat him senseless. I wanted to kill him. I had to stop myself."
And I mean, I know, violence is not the answer, vigilantes are bad, we don't go around brutally assaulting people just because they are violent criminals, Carol, but also WHAT IF WE DID. Dax is a guy who respects a beatdown (I mean, in theory. He cheats by calling friends to retaliate, but the point is he doesn't call police). Gary has warned him about ten times to stay off the property and leave the family alone. Dax kept daring him to make a move, he finally did. Dude got what he deserved.
The one eensy catch is that Dax, having all manner of weaponry in his house, managed to get hold of an arrow during the fight and slice the underside of Gary's forearm open, so he's kind of on the verge of bleeding to death and has to start Macgyvering some makeshift first aid supplies.
Leading to my favorite part, which is where at one point post-injury, he's lying down in Linda's bed. Foster goes in to see him and immediately starts crying (because the kid is 12 and his hero's arm is covered in a bloodsoaked towel and said hero is kinda looking like death and it's just been a really horrifying day overall).
I felt like my legs were about to give out and I felt light-headed.
"Foster," he said, "Come lie down."
I crawled onto the bed and lay on my side facing him, coughing against my palm and trembling. He took his good hand and reached across himself and stroked my hair. "You did good," he said.
I hugged him and cried into his shirt.
See? So much sweetness. And I am just so all about adults being able to provide sorely needed comfort in innocent ways.
There is definitely more I could flail about, like the tiny background hints of Linda and Gary possibly being into each other that you can see between the lines as an adult and/or on your second read, but I'm running out of time for tonight.