Fiction,  Review

#BookReview : Hands Up by Stephen Clark

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Hands Up by Stephen Clark
Publication Date: September 28th 2019
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 272
Stars: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

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Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

*** Note: I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***

Hands Up was thought provoking adult fiction that revolved around three characters tied by tragedy. It was about Police brutality, injustice, racism, loss and grief, depression, betrayal and guilt.

Writing was smooth, gripping and realistic. The setting of Philadelphia and characters were well described. Story was first person narrative from Jade, Ryan and Kelly’s POV. It showed their life and view point perfectly, how death of teenage black boy, Tyrell, affected them and changed their life. We see the story from perpetrator, estranged father who saw it chance to return back with his family, and family’s emotions and hardship. I don’t have anything different from synopsis to say. That synopsis perfectly described how the book started. How three different characters were tied by the death of Tyrell.

From the very beginning it was clear Ryan shot Tyrell; Tyrell looked innocent; Ryan’s partner, Greg, fiftyish senior patrol officer and father figure to him was racist, dishonest man and was more to blame; and what they said to authorities was a manipulated lie. The question was what exactly happened that night and why they shot Tyrell and if Tyrell’s family will get justice?

This was character driven story packed with emotions and many serious, thought-provoking, and controversial topics- Corruption, police brutality that destroyed life and victim’s family; horrors of street- drug addicts, drug dealers, gang feud that robbed people of family and freedom; how loss and grief affects everyone differently; protest and violence, prejudice and racial belief and how some blame whole community for act of one person, suicidal attempts and self-injury, sexual and racial harassment.

Ryan is dealing with unresolved anger and mindset against black people after his father’s death. He felt guilty and ashamed for killing Tyrell. He couldn’t feel good even when he found he and Greg could get away with what they did. The more time passed, he felt dirtier and guiltier. He was having panic attacks and nightmares. Seeking redemption, fighting his fear and biases was only way he could see to have peace. He was not perfect cop with morally right person but his conscience was right. He knew he did wrong but it took time to realize he was keeping bad company. I didn’t like how his mother and girlfriend were being racially biased and didn’t care for the Wakefield family. I loved his development and all he did for redemption and the way he faced his fear was admirable.

Jade was damaged person. Decade ago when her father left them, it changed their life, affected her emotionally and mentally. It caused her depression and she gotinto habit of self-injury. When her brother died, her depression and self-injury got worse, her only hope and salvation was to get justice for her brother. But on return of her father, Kelly, it heightened. She too was racially biased towards white and white cops. She was desperate to get justice and revenge which was realistic but what happened after she got the name of Tyrell’s killer, was bit implausible. I couldn’t understand her anger against Kelly at first. She was not just disappointed and angry for him being unfaithful to her mother or being gangster or missed father as a child, but it looked more than that. She literally hated him. When the truth behind it was revealed I was shocked. Shocked she had to live with it, shocked even after all that happened her mother, Regina, was letting Kelly even near her family. Anyway, I liked her but I didn’t appreciate what she did in the end.

Kelly was boke and broken ex-gangster who abandoned Regina and their children a decade ago for another woman. When he got news of Tyrell’s death, he returned for his funeral, get justice, support Regina, get back in their life as family and to look after his remaining children. Sure Regina didn’t succumb to his nice talk and guilty and sad expression but he surely acted a changed man. Even at some point I thought he made terrible mistake and paid by losing son and their family could forgive him eventually. But as story unfolded, I could see real picture. Now was he really changed or circumstances drove him to other direction can be a good discussion here. But let’s just say he was not easy to figure out. While I liked how he felt sorry for his mistakes and tried to go on better path, at the same time I didn’t like few things. I mean how he could expect everybody would forgive him so easily and then once he gained trust, he started bossing around in Regina’s house. I really don’t like cocky man who have ego screaming ‘I’m man of the house and everybody should do as I say and follow my rules’. At the end I don’t like him, he was no better than Ryan.

There was so much to these characters and I loved to hear their story and form my own opinion towards them. They all were flawed, realistic and were fighting their own demons. Some could concur it while some failed terribly.

There were many turns in the story that kept it interesting, thinking what happens next, and figuring out all the possibilities. Romance was biggest turn in the book. It was totally unexpected but gave the story a dramatic touch.

At climax I thought they could escape but nothing could prepare me for that twist. It was clever and at the same time shocking. While the end seem fair, at the same time I didn’t want it to end like this.  It was heartbreaking and so sad because there could be other way like they kept saying in book.

Why 4.5 stars-

I kept thinking, ‘didn’t characters forgive so easily after the biggest betrayal’! I surely wouldn’t have forgiven any of them. And romance, I was like ‘whoa, who does that’! It was good and important turning point, but again, ‘who does that’! Honestly, it was implausible.

Overall, it was powerful, compelling and gripping fiction that dealt with controversial topics commendably. I definitely recommend this book for those who love to read thought provoking book.

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Affiliate Link: Book Depository

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book already? Have read a book that features police brutality? If so, which one is your favorite?


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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


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