Book Review: NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS, a teenager confronts prejudice in his small Missouri town as he investigates a missing persons case

Esken, Allen - Nothing More Dangerous (4)๐—›๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐˜† ๐—ฝ๐˜‚๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜† ๐˜๐—ผ ๐™‰๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ˆ๐™ค๐™ง๐™š ๐˜ฟ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ๐™š๐™ง๐™ค๐™ช๐™จ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐—”๐—น๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—˜๐˜€๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ป!

In 1976, freshman Boady Sandenโ€™s widowed, depressed, and overwhelmed mother sends him to St. Ignacius high school, a private Catholic school, after getting into trouble with the wrong crowd. He is friendless and awkward, drawing band logos in a notebook to avoid the attention of the popular boys who enjoy tormenting him. With only his dog and his next-door neighbor, Hoke, as company, Boady dreams of leaving Jessup, Missouri behind and is only waiting until he turns sixteen.

That same year, Lida Poe, an African American bookkeeper at Ryke Manufacturing disappears, and town gossip says she left with $100,000 of embezzled funds. Rykeโ€™s home office sends Charles Egin to manage the plant and clean up the operations. Charles, his wife, and his son, Thomas, Boadyโ€™s age, move across the street from Boady on rural Frog Hollow Road.

Boadyโ€™s been so busy keeping his head down, heโ€™s noticed little about the tensions in town, but when the black family moves across the street, he is drawn into the racial battlefield of the community and confronted with the prejudices both his classmates and he himself hold. With a new awareness of the secrets people hold, he sees new dimensions in Hoke, Wally Schenicker, his boss at the drywall company down the road, and even his mother.

As Boady and Thomas hone onto the mystery behind Lida Poeโ€™s disappearance, Boady is forced to choose loyaltiesโ€”and the wrong decision may be deadly for him, his friends, and his family.

๐™‰๐™ค๐™ฉ๐™๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ˆ๐™ค๐™ง๐™š ๐˜ฟ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ๐™š๐™ง๐™ค๐™ช๐™จ deftly combines mystery and bildungsroman, charting Boadyโ€™s growing compassion, both for others and himself and challenging assumptions about race, personality, and motivation. While I found this a compelling read, I was incensed by the injustice Boady both uncovered and experienced. The rural mid-1970s Missouri setting focuses the mystery and allows Esken to bring race to the forefront, with discrimination more overt and the Civil Rights Legislation still just over a decade old. At the same time, the themes are highly relevant to todayโ€™s society.

For me, the dialogue, though, was a bit of a challenge. I trust that the author reliably represented the local dialect, but it was slightly awkward. I also wish that some of the minor characters such as Mrs. Elgin and Diana, one of Boadyโ€™s classmates, had been given more development. However, this is definitely a worthwhile book for readers who enjoy coming of age stories, literary mysteries, or novels about social issues.

๐‘ป๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’Œ ๐’š๐’๐’– ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ต๐’†๐’•๐‘ฎ๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’š ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐‘ด๐’–๐’๐’‰๐’๐’๐’๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐‘ฉ๐’๐’๐’Œ๐’” ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’—๐’Š๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’ ๐’‚๐’…๐’—๐’‚๐’๐’„๐’† ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’„๐’๐’‘๐’š ๐’Š๐’ ๐’†๐’™๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’† ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’‚๐’ ๐’‰๐’๐’๐’†๐’”๐’• ๐’“๐’†๐’—๐’Š๐’†๐’˜.

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