It really surprises me how I haven’t ever heard of ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ since it was published a few years ago. Granted, it isn’t as famous as recent young adult novels on Bestsellers lists, but it really surprises me it isn’t more well-known, especially since it involves three very popular demographics: supernatural, gay, and coming-of-age literature. The author, Ross A. McCoubrey, meshes together these three topics into a novel with amazing characters, a heartfelt story of love and loss, and made me want to appreciate those who I love and love me.
So what’s the story? Caleb Mackenzie is a fifteen year-old boy whose family recently moved to a small town in Ontario, Canada. Instead of missing his old home in Halifax, he quickly makes some new friends, one of them being a boy his age named Shane. As their friendship quickly becomes more than that, Caleb learns from him that his new house has a secret.
You see, Caleb’s family’s new home is a cottage on the outskirts of town called the Wakefield House, and it has a grim past. In 1943, the Everett family owned the house, and one of the sons there, another closeted teenager named Toby, disappeared without a trace. Over the decades, various future owners of the house have reported strange noises and sighting, and it isn’t long before our main character begins hearing his name, “Caleb”, along with unknown gunshots. Wanting to know more, Caleb, his older brother Blake, Shane, and another friend of theirs named Ryley, must band together to dive into the mystery of Toby’s disappearance, learn who murdered him, and possibly lay the young ghost to rest.
Whenever I hear about romance novels involving ghosts and demons, there’s always the catch of either a sappy love triangle, misunderstanding clichés that cause the couple to break up, cheesy dialogue that stems on ‘Twilight’ bad, or even all three combined. ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ doesn’t have any of that. First of all, the characters in this are one of the most genuine people I wish were real. Almost every word, every bit of dialogue, and every action and reaction they have are what make this novel great. Our main couple in this treat each other like a real couple should, whether it be in fiction or even with a real significant other. Both are trusting, empathetic to their feeling and the feelings of others, and work off of their personal interests like bread and butter. They tease each other, go on long walks by themselves, and support each other when they’re down.
My most favorite side character would go to Caleb’s older brother named Blake. I like Ryley and how good of a companion he is for our main leads, but it’s Blake whose stood by his younger brother throughout his life. He’s the older brother that has a smart tongue and is a ladies man but McCoubrey went the extra mile and created one of the most compassionate, caring, kind-hearted brothers of a main character. If I ever wanted to have an older brother, it would definitely be Blake Mackenzie.
And then we have the ghost himself, Toby. Much like Caleb and Shane, Toby’s personality shines in every paragraph and sentence. At first we don’t know much about him at the beginning of the story save for him saying Caleb’s name and an occasional strange occurrence, but we want to know more about him as the novels continues. We later learn that he had a secret relationship with another boy when he was alive. Without giving too much away, I felt unbelievable sorrow in my stomach as I read on.
That’s what I probably like about ‘One Boy’s Shadow’ so much. The teenagers in this talk like real teenagers, the adults in this talk like real adults, and the mystery kept me reading through until I finished the final page. I wanted to know what happened to the poor boy, wanted to know if he’d find peace, and know if Caleb and Shane’s coming out would be met with welcome arms not just to Caleb’s parents, but to their school.
Ross A. McCoubrey is a Canadian author I’ve never heard of before, but after reading ‘One Boy’s Shadow’, I guarantee I’ll read his next novel. Ross, if you’re reading this, I cannot wait.
If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!