Roland West is a ninth-grader who lives in a castle deep in the woods. Before this year, he’d never attended a brick-and-mortar school. Before this year, he was only bullied by his twin older brothers, one of whom is pretty much a psychopath. His dad is an archaeologist who travels frequently. His mom died when he was a young child. Roland is shy, wary of making friends, and wants to avoid gossip, so he finds himself bullied at school as well as at home.
Peter Brandt lives on the other side of the forest from Roland. His parents own a bed & breakfast, his younger brother has autism and is always getting into his stuff, and he’s just inherited an antique box (without the key) from his grandfather. When Peter stumbles upon the dungeon in Roland’s basement where Roland was locked up by his brothers, the two stumble into a mystery with a Communion-of-Saints twist that’s complicated by a creepy substitute teacher.
So begins Roland West, Loner, a young-adult novel by Theresa Linden. I’m not ashamed to admit that I stayed up way too late one night reading this–yes, it’s for teens, but grownups will enjoy it too.
The Catholic connections in the novel are deeply woven into the plot, but never forced. There’s a powerful scene involving the sacrament of Reconcilation as well as a fascinating subplot involving St. Conrad of Parzham. Readers will learn about, and relate to, this German Franciscan saint who was himself the victim of bullies for most of his life.
Roland West, Loner is a suspenseful read that’s appropriate for middle- and high-school students. I bought a copy for the Catholic school library and one for my own middle-schooler.
About author Theresa Linden: An avid reader and writer since grade school, Theresa Linden grew up in a military family. Moving every few years left her with the impression that life is an adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace. A member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, Theresa lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, three boys, and one dog. Her other published books include Chasing Liberty and Testing Liberty, books one and two in a dystopian trilogy. Follow her on Twitter @LindenTheresa and check out her website, Theresa Linden Fiction!
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