Thank you so much to Stephen Clark for providing me with a free copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!
Hands Up is Clark’s second novel. It is a mix of police procedural, black lives matter activism, political, and social commentary – tackling the highly controversial topics of white on black shootings, police brutality, casual and overt racism, gang violence, complicated family ties, and confronting one’s own fears and biases.
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.
Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.
Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.
Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.
So the story is told from the three alternating points of view of Ryan, Jade, and Kelly, and the book puts us in Ryan’s head as his story is the only one told from the first person POV. Ryan is immediately painted as a bit of a crooked cop, then I found myself with a very neutral to indifferent attitude towards him throughout the rest of the book. The three characters are, as the synopsis says, essentially on a collision course.
The story and plot itself kept me rapidly reading throughout. I didn’t so much care for Kelly’s point of view except for how he seems to represent the circle of violence coming to an end. Then starting again. Uncovering how the shooting actually occurred and following the family’s quest for justice both seemed real enough. I could respect Regina (the victim’s mother) for originally not wanting to be in the spotlight, and Gail represented that loud minority of people who blow these things sky high. Regina was probably my favorite character in the whole book as she had some of the most reasonable lines and felt like the most relatable character to me.
The whole book from the family ties to the protests was pretty excellent until the romance aspect – I will not elaborate due to spoilers but even though I could tell and appreciate what the author was trying to do, it didn’t work for me. it didn’t seem plausible. Ryan doesn’t seem like the type who would be on such a moral high ground, then act with frank infidelity no matter how you spin it, then act on impulses like that? It worked for the plot but really threw me from reality to …. “really?”
Also regarding the ending of the book…would Ryan really trust Jade after all that happened? The ending just seemed so implausible that it dropped me from a five to about a three star rating. Still the book is important and feels very necessary in today’s world. It is a brave and diverse topic to handle and I think it was done well; both sides were represented with equal biases. One example is that the pastor in the book mentions that blacks are killing more blacks than white cops. The book recognizes where the real problems in society lie, and acknowledges that a few very loud people can absolutely blow up an issue that is definitely important, but maybe not the biggest overall thing that people are facing at the time.
Even with the ending throwing me off so hard, I think I can tell that Clark was a journalist because my mind is pretty clear on what issues are relevant to him. I feel like this review is a jumble but I fully encourage everyone to read this book. I have daily opportunities at work to examine my thoughts and feelings on various peoples and situations, but this book could be so important for those who don’t have that chance. Especially in America where there is so much debate over these issues and a sense of unity is needed more than ever.
Thank you again to the author for providing a copy of the book for review! Here are The author and the book’s social media links, and at least as of 11/21/19 the book is free on Kindle Unlimited so I would really encourage everyone to check it out!