Two teenage boys face danger in Michael Fields’ dark, action-packed YA novel, One Grey Night It Happened.
The two characters couldn’t seem more different. Lucas is black, outspoken, and gifted both intellectually and physically; Jeremiah is white and painfully shy. They meet as new transfer students at Bloomington High School, Lucas coming from out of state after a horrific school shooting and Jeremiah fleeing a rough clan in his mountain home after years of living in isolation with his caring but war-scarred great-grandfather.
Both boys face social prejudice: Lucas for his skin color; Jeremiah for his lower-class upbringing. But Lucas has developed an admirable self-confidence and Jeremiah possesses a backwoods fearlessness that immediately bond them.
As the saga unfolds, Lucas is haunted by the violent death in a school shooting of his devoted white girlfriend, whom he hoped to marry. And while Jeremiah begins to fit in, even finding a girlfriend, he’s increasingly disturbed by upheavals back home. Together, the protagonists confront nasty adversaries: racist cops secretly pursuing Lucas in relation to the school shooting, and a land-hungry schemer back in Jeremiah’s wilderness home.
Fields’ tale skips around through time and place, sometimes at a dizzying pace that can be confusing. He has a gift for teen dialogue; characters discuss sports, music, male rivalries, cars, mildly racy lovemaking, and their fascination with weaponry.
His large but well drawn cast of characters includes Morgan, a spirited girl researching Alan Seeger, a poet whose military service connects with that of Jeremiah’s great-grandfather. Snippets of songs sung by Seeger’s nephew Pete introduce some chapter openings. However, the cover art– a fanciful cartoon dragon and bunny that references the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” —hardly reflects the novel’s stark, gritty realism.
The story affirms that any boy can become a man, through innate or borrowed courage. Its vivid, almost cinematic construction, will be compelling for young adult readers, though its erotic activity, strong language and raw violence are most suitable for older teens.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.