There is something about small town America that has a romantic allure to it, especially because of the seemingly protected and friendly nature surrounding this locale. So, when books shatter that sense of comfort by throwing dastardly villains into the mix, it makes each of us reconsider what it is to feel safe in today’s world. The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses introduces readers to a small town that is generally cheerful and supportive and throws in some challenges that come from a place that is less grounded in reality. As the protagonists learn more about their home and its dangers, they must work together to banish the darkness before it is too late. This story includes ample white space and frequent context clues, making it well-suited especially to more reluctant young adult readers. Please see my full review below!
The town of Danville Heights is a close community of people from a wide range of backgrounds who all come together as proud neighbors. But the preserve on the outskirts of town is not as welcoming as Danville Heights, and a darkness has been growing within it for the past several years. When five boys from the high school football team decide to disobey their parents’ wishes and venture into the preserve following a memorable game, strange things begin to happen. As the boys work to decipher the truth behind the unusual outcome of their journey into the preserve, they find themselves in the unexpected role of protecting their town and the people in it from a terrible fate.
This young adult novel blends magic realism with some of the grittier realities of adolescence in the United States into a unique and thought-provoking narrative. The story begins with a prologue that sets the stage for the events in the majority of the text and includes heavy subject matter from the very beginning. Many of the characters in the story have experienced challenging events themselves, and their voices come out as the narrative frequently shifts points of view. Each chapter includes ample white space and begins with a provocative quote at the beginning, and these serve to enhance both reading comprehension and the overall accessibility of the novel.
Not only does this book speak to many of the realities faced by young people, but it also has an accompanying teacher’s guide that is filled with discussion questions for further investigation. Whether readers are part of a classroom, book club, or just reading at home, these questions dive deeper into the events of the story and encourage critical thinking about many of them. Fans of Stranger Things will appreciate the parallels found in this novel, particularly surrounding the idea of a darkness invading a community with an otherwise wholesome existence. The first in its series, this novel builds a foundation that will encourage readers to discover what happens in subsequent installments. This is a particularly accessible read for young adults who appreciate the opportunity to regard reality through a unique lens.
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