Roland West, Loner

Roland West, Loner - Theresa Linden I really enjoyed this book. It introduced me to Saint Conrad of Parzham, and I love it when books introduce me to saints I didn’t know before. Roland West Loner is about two fourteen-year-old boys, Roland and Peter. Roland is trying to escape his maniac brother who will do pretty much anything to go on a trip to Italy that their father planned for Roland. Peter has just received an inheritance from his grandfather, and Roland feels very drawn to it. Peter is not very nice to his little brother Toby who has autism, or to his friend Caitlyn, while Roland is a very private person who has trouble trusting others. I really enjoyed watching the character growth of these two, as well as the character growth that Caitlyn had. Roland West Loner didn’t feel like it needs a sequel, but there were some unanswered questions that I will talk about under spoiler warnings.

I thought that the writing got a little bit sloppy at the end. I thought that the showdown, if you can call it that, with Mr. Reinhart could have been done better. I mean, Jarrett stops him from getting away and then tries to take the box from him and the other characters laugh. It didn’t make sense that they laughed, even though it probably looked funny, Mr. Reinhart and Jarrett getting into a cat fight and slapping each other’s hands, but Mr. Reinhart was trying to steal the Saint Conrad relics and I didn’t think that laughing at that part was very appropriate. I was also rather disappointed by how quickly Dominic and Foster made up. Foster had been bullying Dominic for the past year or more and then Dominic was miraculously healed from his paralysis and the next time Foster sees him they make up really quickly. I thought that there really would have to be more emotional healing for both of them. It makes it look like Foster had stopped being friends with Dominic because Dominic couldn’t walk, when Peter said it was because after he was paralyzed, Dominic spent a year pushing the away the people who cared about him, and Foster was hurt because of that, and then Foster hurt Dominic by horrendous bullying. I really thought that there would need to be more healing and forgiving each other.

I also thought that there could have been more of an exchange of explanations between Dominic and Roland. Dominic had been gossiping about Roland almost constantly at school, and there was never any discussion between those two. Dominic never talked to Roland enough to know how much his gossiping bothered Roland and apologize. In fact, I doubt that Dominic even realized he was gossiping. Once you start gossiping you start to forget that that is what you are doing, and you convince yourself that you are only ‘discussing’ a person, not tearing them down and spreading rumors, but I don’t think Dominic had yet admitted to himself that he was gossiping about Roland, and I still would have liked to have seen them get to know one another enough for Roland to help Dominic to realize that he was hurting people by spreading rumors, and Dominic to apologize.

Two other things that we never learned were; how did Roland’s mother die? And why is Roland afraid of cold water? Roland’s mother died in an accident during an archeology project and, because of Roland’s fear of water I’m thinking it had something to do with water, but did it? We never learn. There was another little tidbit hinted at that was never actually discussed and that was that Roland runs away every year on the day his mother died. Where does he go? What does he do? How does his family react? At this point Roland has had enough character growth that an explanation wouldn’t do that much for our understanding of his character, but if we had learned that at the beginning of the book I think it could have added character depth.

The ending was not very satisfying. It could almost be, but it isn’t. I feel bad for Keefe because Roland’s dad said “You’re the one I overlook the most.” Which is true. He isn’t as badly behaved as Jarrett that he gets a lot of attention from reprimands, but he isn’t as good as Roland so he gets attention for being a good person. Even so I was frustrated when Keefe got the trip to Italy. Jarrett describes Keefe as his conscience, and Keefe may stop Jarrett from doing worse things to Roland, but he doesn’t stop Jarrett from doing a lot of bad things to Roland. He even helps to lock Roland in his tower because “You have no idea what he originally had planned for you.” So he was stopping Jarrett from sinning, by committing a smaller sin himself, and that didn’t seem right. For that reason, I found it frustrating that Keefe ended up getting the reward of the trip to Italy. I know that it was more Roland’s victory, he controlled himself and accepted his punishment humbly, but if Roland messed up enough to lose his trip to Italy than Keefe didn’t deserve it either.

Despite of my issues with parts of it, I did really like this book, Roland and Peter both had really good character growth, as did Caitlyn, and I plan on reading Theresa Linden’s Liberty Trilogy. I feel sort of bad because I’m the first not-five-star reviewer, and I did enjoy the book, I just thought that it could have been even better than it was.