The Bright Lands by John Fram

Release Date - July 7, 2020

Bentley, Texas, loves football and its conservative ways. It's the latter part of that passion that found Joel Whitley leaving his hometown for New York City. Being a gay man in a conservative Texas town wasn't easy or enjoyable.

Years later, a message from his younger brother brings Joel back to Bentley. When his brother disappears, he knows something is wrong. The messages he's getting from his brother are clearly being sent by someone else. His worst fears are confirmed when Dylan's body is discovered.

He's not about to let police brush this crime off. His former girlfriend is now a sheriff's deputy and her own brother vanished under mysterious circumstances. While she may harbor ill feelings towards Joel, she wants to know what's happening in her town. It's clear many students and adults are hiding something, and it's up to the two of them to figure out if their town is harboring a murderer.

I loved the premise in The Bright Lands. I was eager to get to the horror aspect. When I did, it was a let down. The writing was never gripping enough to engage me. I felt for Joel. His former classmates and adults weren't great people. That was clear and I've heard people say that some of the more conservative towns in the south can be like that.

That may have been part of my issue. I see so much of the hatred towards people of other colors, races, etc. that I get tired of reading about it in my fiction, too. I know it exists. I read as a form of escape, and the story within The Bright Lands started feeling more like a news documentary than fiction novel. Many characters are featured and I found myself struggling to keep up. I would have preferred if the story had stayed Joel's and never delved into the others getting to tell their stories through their eyes.


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