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What is your purpose?

A story of two teens searching: one for their place in the world, the other for a reason to survive.

After her mother’s sudden death, artistically gifted Megan lost her will to draw as she watched her family crumble. When her father unexpectedly moves what’s left of them halfway across the country to mend, Megan must try, yet again, to rise from the ashes and create a new existence for herself. She’s intrigued when she sees Shawn—a secluded classmate who sparks unexpected drawing inspiration.

Shawn is protecting a terrible secret and teeters on the edge of letting go. With each layer Megan strips from him, she gets hints about how broken he is. If Shawn is brave enough to open up, Megan might be his undoing—which could save his life. But when Megan learns his darkest secret, will she be able to convince him life is still worth living?

Through a heart-wrenching journey that immerses Megan’s entire family in the dangerous and unthinkable world Shawn lives in, Megan succumbs to certain truths about life:

          Nothing happens by accident.
          We are exactly where we’re meant to be.
          We all really are here for a reason.

Reality is rarely subtle.

Touch depicts abuses that may be difficult for some readers and is recommended for a mature audience.

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 5 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Miller's novel boasts a classic plot with even pacing and is bolstered by a satisfyingly unexpected conclusion. The intensity of action is nicely balanced with an element of humanity and weightiness.

Prose/Style: Miller's prose is straightforward but frequently sidetracked by bouts of ill-timed and vicious profanity. Told in the first person, Megan's voice is unpolished, genuine, and irrefutably real - adding authenticity for readers who crave a more personal connection.

Originality: Readers will easily recognize Miller's fundamental coming-of-age story, but the rawness of her characters' suffering and the unforeseen plot curves add novelty.

Character Development/Execution: The characters in Miller's Touch are believable in their brokenness. Protagonist Megan Brennar, though remarkably trusting and naïve, is a beacon of light - especially to the grim and tortured Shawn Harris. Supporting characters give the story dimension and make the narrative more cohesive.

Blurb:
An archetypal coming-of-age novel peppered with some agonizing curveballs that speak to the power of hope in the midst of excruciating pain. 

Date Submitted: April 20, 2021

Reviews
Miller’s debut paints a dark, sensitive portrait of a broken family as they struggle to help a boy who is just as broken as they are. After her mother’s death, high-school student Meg, a budding and talented artist, sees her life unravel, losing all inspiration and drive. Her family is in tatters: Her father is increasingly distant and plans to move the family across the country, and her teenage brothers live just to annoy her. Meg knows she must pick up the pieces of her old life. When she runs across a reclusive classmate named Shawn, she is instantly drawn to him, and she puts pencil to paper, inspired to draw again. But Shawn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that could threaten their relationship and even Meg’s life.

Miller writes with heart and conviction, situating believable characters in a realistic world and letting Meg and Shawn’s curious relationship blossom over the course of the novel in prose that’s by turns tender, taut, and suspenseful. Raw and unflinching, Touch captures the realities of facing trauma, as Meg and Shawn discover shocking truths and attempt to care for each other. Amid the drama, Miller transports readers to the fictional Jessup, Missouri, attentive to the candy apples and country bands at a county fair or the rough character of some of its inhabitants: “The fight was all anyone talked about: Bobby’s punch to Damian’s gut, his jab to his face, Damian’s shot to Bobby’s jaw …”

Some heavy-handed symbolism involving hummingbirds and self-help books dulls the impact of a story whose shattering events and realizations should have plenty of power on their own. The novel could easily be broken into two distinct parts, given its multiple emotional climaxes. Despite its structural quirks, fans of gritty coming-of-age stories set in middle America will find much that’s moving and urgent in Touch, especially as its characters find ways to care for each other.

Takeaway: A raw coming-of-age-debut that finds moving hope as its young characters face trauma and dark secrets.

Great for fans of: Crystal Chan’s All That I Can Fix, Kyla Stone’s Beneath the Skin.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B+

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