The Bright Lands – Published 2020
“The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.
Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.
But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.” – Goodreads
Sometimes, when I’m teaching, I’ll ask students to list their ideas and then choose one to focus on. They always want to include their other topics, but that could make their writing less focused and developed, so I don’t let them. There’s always a student or six that will ignore that direction and write their 5 paragraph persuasive essay on 3 different topics. That’s what I think happened with this book. I don’t want to be disrespectful, because a lot of people loved this book, but I feel as though Fram had this murder mystery and was ready to go, but he was like, “But like, what if there was also a monster?” And his editor asked who the protagonist was, and he said, “There’s 11.”
This book had a lot of potential. It had some Friday Night Lights feels, and I love a small town drama. The premise is so good; multiple gay boys have gone missing from Small Town (homophonic), Texas. I liked the community focus on the local football team, the questioning of injustices from within the local police department, and the dysfunctional families. So much potential!
But as you’re reading you go from wondering who dunnit to wondering why there’s a boogeyman, and finally questioning why everyone’s naked. It’s a lot.
I do feel like there’s an underlying message somewhere in there that sexuality is a lot more fluid than people care to admit, but it was presented in a pretty aggressive manner.
Overall, this wasn’t TERRIBLE, but it also isn’t living up to its hype. Maybe this isn’t a great one for the audiobook with all of its switching POVs and length, or maybe I’m just not into paranormal elements mixed with what could be a perfect murder mystery. I’m giving it 3 stars because I finished it and recommend you see for yourself!
TW: sexual assault, murder, drug use, death of a sibling