In December 2011, John Goode wrote a short story named The Boy Behind the Red Door, a heartfelt Christmas aside set in the fictional town of Foster, Texas, and portraying a cutesy tale of the towns beloved toxic bachelor Tyler Parker. Now John Goode is a very humble man. In fact he’s infuriatingly self-depricating and has no idea of his talent (despite what myself, his mother and every other person who has ever picked up one of his books has said). So when he tweeted about the release of the brand new Dreamspinner release, Taking Chances, I was expecting The Boy Behind the Red Door v2.0. No. Not even close.
Like watching the events of your life from your own perspective isn’t hard enough, John Goode has a way of telling a story from a 45 camera CCTV set-up. He could have just tacked another couple chapters to the end of The Boy Behind the Red Door and called it quits. I still would have fan-boyed all over the place and gushed that it was written by the hand of God himself. But no, John Goode took that story, and eviscerated, renovated and retold the story from two characters perspectives, wove it intricately into the time-frame of End of The Innocence, and had the two stories cross link like a mid-mitotic chromosome. And what came out far surpassed any expectation I ever had for a book that only briefly features our Foster High Super-duo, Brad and Kyle.
While Foster High is traditionally delivered by Joanie and Chachi, Taking Chances gives us a story from the thinking-man’s Fonz, and it’s a pretty heady cocktail of angst, confusion, redemption and love that can only be found in the hands of Mr. Goode.
Matt Wallace, mentioned briefly in an earlier tale, has returned to Foster for his annual Christmas pilgrimage. And what seems like a chance encounter with town’s former sports-stud, Tyler Parker, turns out to be the work of an intricately woven plan on Parker’s and both their mothers part, the intervention of Linda Stilleno in all her beer-soaked glory, and fate itself, pushing these two Foster veterans together.
But the course of true love never did run smooth, and what transpires is a tale so will-they-won’t-they, it makes us, the reader, have to physically reach for purchase, and occasionally recoil, as if slapped by a bag filled with buckles. It’s enchanting, cross-country shenanigans takes on a more adult voice, despite the apparent cluelessness of the protagonists, who by comparison, are no match for the superior intellect of Kyle. Fear not though. The young Mr. Stilleno does make a brief narrative appearance, and sets the clueless Parker back on track. We are even gifted with the heartbreaking story of how Parker and the bitchy big-city import Robbie truly began their acquaintance.
My favourite thing about this book is how it sticks with the characters, and, at one point, when too heartbroken, the main narrators cannot go on, Goode has them excuse themselves, while supporting characters take the narrative lead. I physically LOL’d at this (and I am not a huge LOL’er). It also gave us a brief journey into the mind of Linda, who up until now has played a fairly backseat role, but I’m sensing her day is coming in the future book.
Taking Chances is a beautifully written Christmas cross-over with the previous book, and the tragic turn of events of End of the Innocence is mirrored in this epic tale. While Kyle is standing on a soap box demanding change in the Bear’s Den, the beloved Parker is finally making his own stand. And it’s not to be missed in the explosive climax to the story. This is usually the part where I would make a pun about taking a chance reading this book, but come on. It’s John Goode. You can’t go wrong with him.
Taking Chances was released August 7th on Dreamspinner press, and will be followed up by the highly anticipated novel, 151 Days, which Goode is currently working to finish, and he tells me is the last we will see of Foster High. Keep an eye out for its release date, which I know doubt will announce, when I predictably change my web-address to http://www.stalkingjohngoode.com (this is not a real address – my sarcasm knows no hyperlink!).
You can pick up your copy of Taking Chances here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4132
John Goode was kind enough to answer a few questions, so head over to the next page to read what he has to say about that.