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While Set For Life does have a formula which gets old, as you realize it is but the first in a series, it makes you appreciate the foundation laid down.
Note: A free copy was sent by writer Dan Kaluzny for an honest review.
Barely of legal age and yet Adam has had more trials and tribulations than many have seen. Between a younger sister dying, after seemingly beating her battle with medical issues; his mom’s passing partly because of him; and then his father dying all before he reached 18? Then, Adam recovering from addictions which stemmed from his mother’s death? As you can imagine, that is a lot to put on anyone’s shoulders, no matter the age.
Luckily for Adam though, as his father was dying of prostate cancer, he pulled every contact or researched great, sometimes every day, people who could finish the work he started. From women who are teachers or nuns, to men who were in the military like his dad or are working to take people in space, all of them are left with Adam’s contact info and a letter from his father. A heartfelt one which even pushes a big-time children’s book author to contact Adam.
Each of them help push Adam from his depression and in the process push the reader to certain feelings. Whether it is to be thankful, provide us some direction, or even push us to keep going, after a certain point you can see from Adam’s eyes and hear through his ears and each mentor his father setup becomes the kind you perhaps need in your life.
After A Certain Point, You Really Come To Dig Adam
I will not lie, considering you get dumped with so many one to two chapter characters, it can make Adam sometimes an afterthought. However, as Adam picks up the pieces of his life and starts finding purpose, even a goal for his life, you come to dig him. In fact, he becomes the type of character that you can imagine in book 2, maybe 3 if it gets that far, to become like the people his dad sought out to advise him.
Throwing Everything and the Kitchen Sink
Something I’m noticing a lot with fairly new authors is that they are very trauma heavy early on in the books and pretty much make the lead as depressing as possible. For Adam, there is his sister dying, his mom dying trying to be there for him, and then his dad dying. On top of that, there is his trouble with a local gang, something which happens with his friend, this love interest who pops in for a hot minute, and it really just comes to a point where you wonder if this boy is going to commit suicide in the end.
For really, while there are all these inspirational people calling him from all over the world, locally, he doesn’t have that in-person support. And truly, unless you can find it within you to admire him surviving to the point he has, this book can become dull as you are hit with nothing but a setback and then a new mentor popping up.
The Parade of Characters
Speaking of new characters, unfortunately, as noted, most of them are only in the book for one or two chapters and then Adam doesn’t speak to them again. Which becomes a bit of a problem for it eventually becomes a parade in which we get the same introduction. Something to the tune of the dad talking about what Adam went through, the person who got the dad’s letter crying, and then hitting up Adam with the same, “I got your father’s letter/package.” Which, at first was okay. It was kind of confusing the way we’d switch to a totally unknown person, but after a while, you recognize the pattern.
Yet, again, the problem with this patter is Adam doesn’t reach out to these people after the initial introduction. When he gets beat up, he doesn’t seek these people out. As he watches his best friend deal with something hard, these people don’t rally around him for ultimately, they remain strangers. Of which his dad had genuine connections to in some cases, but others were outright strangers who seemed to contact Adam out of pure obligation.
But, as noted in the intro, with you recognizing this book is but the foundation for a sequel, maybe in part two we’ll see this rather large cast get put to use.
On The Fence
You Kind of Wish The Love Story Happened
If I was to be completely honest, I struggled to finish this book not just because of the downtrodden story, but also because there wasn’t much in the way of hope. That is until Adam found a love interest. Someone who was just this waitress at a local café but ended up scamming Adam. Now, let me tell you, after her lasting longer than most, I was ready to just drop the book because if I wanted to feel this depressed about something, there are tons of documentaries available. Yet, with the possibility of love there once, I was hoping that someone could physically be in Adam’s life, platonic or otherwise, who’d help lighten this up.
That didn’t happen, but if it happened once, my fingers are crossed it could happen in the sequel.
Set For Life gives off this vibe that it is a book which could have been longer, but instead, it was decided to be split into two. The first part dealing with Adam being at utter rock bottom, with speckles of light in the distance, and part 2 likely being him not only reaching the light, but being the light for others. But, as a reader, this book really tests how much you can take when it comes to Adam’s suffering and so many characters that come and go without leaving a real impact.
Hence the mixed label. While it is clear Dan Kaluzny wanted to make an inspirational story dealing with faith and strength despite adversity, he beats up the lead to the point you barely want to stick around for his comeback. For with there not being a character who helps relieve Adam’s troubles, consistently, you are always waiting for things to get better. And when it seems they might, Adam gets slapped down again. Making it where you are forced to believe that things may not consistently become good for Adam until the second book. Making book 1 seem like a ridiculously long intro which should have shaved down a slew of characters and made their interactions with Adam more significant.