Still Waters by Ash Parsons

A gritty, powerful debut that evokes The Outsiders. You won’t be able to 22521937look away.

High school senior Jason knows how to take a punch. Living with an abusive father will teach a kid that. But he’s also learned how to hit back, earning a reputation at school that ensures no one will mess with him. Even so, all Jason truly wants is to survive his father long enough to turn eighteen, take his younger sister, Janie, and run away.

Then one day, the leader of the in crowd at school, Michael, offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Jason figures Michael simply wants to be seen with someone with a tough rep and that the money will add up fast, making Jason’s escape plan a reality. Plus, there’s Michael’s girl, Cyndra, who looks at Jason as if she sees something behind his false smile. As Jason gets drawn deeper into Michael’s game, the money keeps flowing, but the stakes grow ever more dangerous. Soon, even Jason’s fists and his ability to think on his feet aren’t enough to keep his head above water.

Still Waters is an intense, gritty thriller that pulls no punches—yet leaves you rooting for the tough guy. A powerful, dynamic debut. – Goodreads.com

Wow…just an amazing debut by this author.  Dark, compelling, gritty – I finished this book for the most part in one day.

Although just a high school senior, Jason is hardened, distrustful, and wise beyond his years due to the trauma he’s seen and experienced in his young life.  His tough external shell hides an intelligent, loyal, and caring person who has learned to read people well – until he’s offered money that could help with getting him and his sister to safety and a pretty girl comes into the picture, the downfall of many a man.  Throughout this book, I was as suspicious as Jason of every character’s motive.  Were they to be trusted or were they playing him?  Excellent suspense, pacing, and tension.

Exceptional major character development, all having their layers gradually revealed and still leaving me wondering about some characters at the end; however, most of the secondary characters were one-dimensional and several blurred together at times.  The scenes in which Jason was abused by his father were entirely realistic and I cringed repeatedly – not for the tender-hearted.

One aspect of this plot bothered me, and maybe I missed the reasoning, but I kept wondering why Jason didn’t hide the money he’d saved at Clay’s house, as it would have been a safer place.  The nicknames also seemed a little goofy to me, but that was easily overlooked.

I highly recommend this book to fans of psychological thrillers/suspense.  Looking forward to more from this author.  Still Waters is scheduled for publication April 21, 2015.

Thanks to Penguin First To Read for the digital ARC.

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