setting free the kites by alex george

SETTING FREE THE KITES by Alex George [Shelf Awareness Book Review]

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher, via Shelf Awareness for Readers. All opinions are my own.

SETTING FREE THE KITES by Alex George [Shelf Awareness Book Review]Setting Free the Kites
Written by Alex George
Published by Penguin on February 21st 2017
ISBN: 9780399162107
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Source: publisher, via Shelf Awareness for Readers

From the author of the "lyrical and compelling" (USA Today) novel A Good American comes a powerful story of two friends and the unintended consequences of friendship, loss, and hope.   For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly, who changes everything. Nathan is confident, fearless, impetuous--and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan's budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies, and as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss, they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park. It's there that Nathan's boundless capacity for optimism threatens to overwhelm them both, and where they learn some harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge.   Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (March 14, 2017). The publisher provided an advance reader copy (ARC) for review consideration, and Shelf Awareness paid for the review they received and published. All opinions are my own.



Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a moving novel of friendship, family, loss and reconciliation.

Nathan Tilly and his parents arrive in Haverford, Maine, in the autumn of 1976, following Mr. Tilly’s whimsical decision to buy a lobster boat. Robert Carter’s family owns Fun-a-Lot, the amusement park where nearly every teenager in town has a summer job.  Their friendship begins with unexpected acts of kindness and violence. On the first day of school, Nathan rescues Robert from the eighth-grade bully. Days later, Robert and Nathan witness the terrible kite-flying accident that kills both Mr. Tilly and Nathan’s pet mongoose.

Nathan’s life is changed by loss, but Robert’s life has been defined by the expectation of it. His brother Liam is terminally ill, and their parents’ preoccupation with their older son’s condition has made the younger one feel like his family’s afterthought. Nathan is adventurous and optimistic despite his losses, while Robert’s have made him more cautious and reserved. Their personalities balance each other, and they are nearly inseparable as they enter high school and join the summer staff at Fun-a-Lot. They will work together at the amusement park for two summers and will find that a lot of that time will not be a lot of fun at all.

Setting Free the Kites is told from Robert’s adult perspective as he looks back on three years of his youth. So much happens during those years that one might feel like George was piling it on if not for the humor and genuine feeling he shows his characters. At times the novel feels like toned-down John Irving; that’s a compliment, and not a backhanded one. George has crafted an emotionally resonant story with a blend of comedy and tragedy that mirrors the friendship it describes.


setting free the kites chapter one

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