People are often not what they appear to be, the perception and imagery of our assumptions about their character are often wrong and misleading. And it is often said that you can find out a person’s true nature in the time of a crisis; when they are faced with important and critical choices, we get to see their real core, understand what they are truly made of. If this is true in life, then it’s truer in the case of fictional characters. The easiest way to reveal your character’s true nature is to present before them a choice and document the path that they undertake.
In author Harry E. Gilleland, Jr’s new novel, ‘Zack’s Choice’ the choice the namesake lead character Zack has to make is something that will truly test his character. Fiction often immortalizes its Heroes & Villains through films & books as moral characters who will make these moral & immoral choices, resulting in victory through sacrifices or by withholding it. But in Zack’s Choice, you have a protagonist who isn’t your archetypal goody two shows hero but more of a character who is at a crossroads in his life, wanting to break away from the secure and pre planned life back at home to take a chance, a chance at redeeming something, and that something maybe as simple as rediscovering himself in the bargain. So you have certain conflicted characters who might think they are the good guys or the bad guys until, when faced with a dilemma, they learn something new about themselves. This is the single most defining element of this novel that enables a reader to assimilate the fiction to his real life because similar to real life, in the novel too its only when the lead character is faced with hardships, does he discover his true self.
Zack’s not so ambitious plan to marry his high school sweetheart and follow in his parent’s footsteps come undone the day he meets Bobby Smith who turns his world upside down from the minute they meet and who even manages to convince Zack a farfetched tale about his role in saving the world from its imminent destruction. This is where he makes the first choice, and he soon realizes that our choices don’t affect only us but also those around us. They can affect our lives in unimaginable ways like it does with Zack whose detour takes him to California and across Europe all the while trying to avoid the law. It soon becomes a complex, cat and mouse game between Zack and Bobby and how their characters even after choosing different paths end up affecting each others lives.
This is the beauty and great quality of good fictional writing. Our past actions and words do come back to haunt us. An immoral choice made in the past by a character comes back to hurt him in the end. While a moral choice, made by a lead which often involves a sacrifice, actually ends up bringing great rewards to him in the end.
You can’t categorize and departmentalize “Zack’s Choice” into a hard and fast genre; it can be a thriller at times and a coming of age story otherwise. But what it is for sure is a first class page turner that is both an easy read but also manages to leave its impact long after you’ve turned the last page.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short and cozy summer read that you can relax with and then prepare yourselves to fall in love with Zack and his naivety and innocence and monitor his growth into an introspective young adult with a good soul by the end of the novel.