Category: Transfer Student at School

+Blog Book Tour+ The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

Posted Thursday, 30 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 3 Comments

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The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

Published By:  Black Rose Writing, 22 August 2013

Official Author Website: Site

Converse on Twitter: #iwasbullied, #bullying, #bullied

Available Formats: Softcover Page Count: 232

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “The Pact” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by TLC Book Tours, in which I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author Mitchell S. Karnes in exchange for an honest review . I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired To Read:

As foreshadowed on the companion Author Q&A piece on bullying which coincides with this book review, The Pact is a story which appealed to me very much as I was bullied in school since a very young age. In the 80s/90s bullying wasn’t as widely spoken about nor understood. Generally back then, if you were picked on you were told to ‘buck up and take it’ and not be such a silly emotional girl. I am thankful I had my parents to support me and help me avoid the worst of what could have happened by switching me out of schools. I have always been wanting to advocate for social change and social conscience in regards to being bullied, and by featuring this novel on my blog, I am taking the first step towards this goal!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comMitchell S. KarnesAuthor Biography:

Mitchell S. Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees. Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

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Re-visiting School & the Life therein for teens:

The Pact opens innocently enough as the central character who is being bullied is seen going through the motions of his everyday life at school. Paul is targeted from observation in this early stage of the story for being different from his peers; including his exploits in literature which delve into history as he is an avid researcher for a role-playing game he’s keen on. Karnes deftly brings back the joy and the trauma of life within school walls for those who have had to deal with bullies at some point in their lives. The scene is bittersweet and real, by giving both sides of the action supplemented with short back-stories on each of the characters. I appreciate this discovery of who the bullies are as they are bullying Paul, as it opens the door to understand what makes a bully tick.

At the very same time, I appreciated that the main lead character of Scott enters the scene by deftly using defense skills to deflect and defuse the situation before it could grow worse in proportion. I oft wondered myself if self-defense classes might have helped me handle similar situations where the physicality of being bullied was being tested against the skills I clearly lacked in knowledge. I never wanted to study martial arts to instigate a fight, but rather to defend myself when the bullies turnt uglier in their abuse towards physical threats which could escalate without warning.

The insertion of the role-playing game of Warriors & Thieves is quite bang-on and accurate as eighth grade or ninth grade is generally the years in which role-playing enters into the life of teens eager to break out of the droll of school related angst. I even liked how each of the players would choose different approaches within the gameplay itself to assert their own voice into the realm of the game! I also knew that the author might dig a bit deeper into the presumed reality of the game and the actual reality of each individual group who plays the game. Given the fact that each set of gameplay is based on each individual Game Master’s vision for the game, the game itself can take on different queues for each round of simulated action. The balance between good vs. evil and light vs. dark can vary as much as what the general focus of each game is elected to be featuring. As the story moves forward, the interplay of the characters lays a foundation rooted in inspirational fiction as an essay on how to find balance between faith and life as its lived.

My Review of The Pact:

I had a knowing smile on my lips as I began the first chapter of The Pact, as Karnes had a way of travelling me back through time and re-entering my own life on school grounds. Despite the difference in gender from the lead character, there was enough semblance of recognition of an average day at school for me to re-adjust my mind’s eye to endeavour to go back into that hidden world just out of view. I say ‘hidden world’ because life at school isn’t something that you can prepare for nor is it something that you hope it will be. You have to adjust to what comes across your path as you live through the experience. Heavy leaden backpacks, heavy books, your shoulders off-setting the balance and trying to keep in step with your schedule of the day’s classes is all par for course! Such a great lead-in for the story!

Luke might be a war-monger in Warriors & Thieves, but I was curious to seek out what was motivating him to push Chris and Paul out of their comfort zones of reality into the common bloodshed of warfare. There are many ways to accomplish self-confidence and self-advocacy without pushing the envelopes of violence, especially unrelented violence in a game which is usually grounded in skill, maneuvers, and obstacles. Chris on the other hand has a brilliant way of keeping the rules of the game intact by pushing the action of the game forward within the confines of the realm, but lacks the clarity of knowing how to enliven the story of which the world-building is meant to carve out of its niche. Paul is the innocent of the group, learning as he builds confidence through his friendships. Scott comes from playing the game through his father’s advice. Endeavouring to give a bit more of a back-story to each of the characters which gives you a lifeblood to the game eliminating the one dimensional interface. One of my favourite revelations is when Scott shows Paul his hand-drawn map of Canaanshade which he created with his father. The intricacy of the world arc is exactly what all of us hope for in our fantasy realms of reading adventures! Lit alive with creatures and characters you want to know more about.

As the story eases back into the schoolyard drama of sorting out how to find your way on a wrestling team, we start to see a switch in the path the story is leading the reader. At the conclusion of Chapter Five there is a haunting foreshadow which queues in a larger message of the evolving narrative. Whilst we see Scott become a member of the Junior High Wrestling team, we see the underpinnings of his confliction over finding the balance between strength and humility. To know when to assert one’s knowledge of the fight on the mat and when to be humble and yield to your opponent. The chapters in which we see the interaction of the boys on the team lend a good viewing of the complexities all youth have during their growing years especially as they sort out how to be fueled by self-confidence but not clouded by pride.

Intuitively, Karnes keeps a few antidotes of Scott’s life away from the reader’s eyes, so at first the only way to foresee what could happen next is noticing the slight changes in his behaviour and reactions of speech. Then, in Chapter Twenty-Two the character flaw of Scott is pushed into full view and shocked all who discovered his darkest secret of which even he doesn’t fully understand the severity of.

Although I knew the intensity of the subject at hand, the sequent deaths in the story came at quite a shock as did the level of rage. This is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred and the true lesson is knowing the signs of when someone can no longer separate the difference of the two.

Inspirational Murmurings of Advice for teens:

What I was keen to see develop is if Scott’s family would embrace how he played the game with his late father’s advice on how to bring out the light in both the fictional realm of Warriors & Thieves as much as in the living realm of teenage life. There is always going to be ignorance for something people fear outright without merit, but if everyone took the time to actually see from the point of view of the teen who is involved, I think it would break down the barriers of communication. To see where they are approaching what they do in their everyday life and worlds, and understanding what motivates their interest, we are a step closer to understanding what is truly right and what is a caution for being wrong. I am never one to advise going against a child’s interest out of fear of what it might involve, but rather advocate for an open line of conversation to engage in the child’s interest and to root out what they are actually into. You always have to believe in your child (son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, etc) first and foremost, and then, a measure of goodwill and willing to accept their interests if they have their heart and mind in the right place.

I also think it’s a good example of how one person’s influence can sway your thoughts away from what you internally already know are true. To be given feedback from a youth minister that contradicts how your own father raised you, I would imagine would weigh most heavily on your heart and mind. I had a measure of hope that this is one thread of the story Karnes would lead Scott to realising the difference between a positive influence and one that is not entirely negative but not entirely positive. I had hoped for him to redefine his belief in his father’s guidance and learn whom to trust now that his father has passed and can no longer offer him advice. This is one thread of the story that faded from view as the chapters took a turn in direction I discuss below in Fly in the Ointment.

I believe that no one should eclipse the methodology of parenting of a child when the parent is taking an active role in their child’s life. Parents who understand and know their child inside and out, know where their heart lies, and where their interests truly are leading them. Even grandparents need to become familiar with their grand-children’s interests and activities, because what might be viewed by outsiders as negative influences might actually be a way for their own grandson/daughter to directly impact positivity into the lives of their friends. At least these were my thoughts until the chapters in the book started to reveal how Luke was having trouble separating fiction from reality. In this instance, the greatest threat to the young lives in the story was Luke’s inability to proper distance himself from his role-playing character as he brought the game into real life where it did not belong to be explored.

Fly in the Ointment: (with a few spoilers)

Despite my champion belief that the story would triumph the bullying behaviour in the story, I was quite mystified as to the level of violence which erupted out of the heart of the central character’s wayward actions. I would have much preferred the central focus of the one event that stemmed directly out of the gameplay of Warriors & Thieves which took place at Luke’s grandparent’s house rather than the climax at the railroad bridge. One whole section felt a bit forced to me which is when Scott’s grandmother fervently urges her husband to ‘jump the rails’ ahead of the oncoming train. I didn’t foresee this anywhere in the story as behaviour befit his grandparents and the sequencing of their deaths had heavy emotional impact but could have been avoided completely.

I believe this is an after-school special which went too far to prove the point on behalf of bullying and what leads ordinary events to escalate to violence. If there had been a disclaimer in the beginning stating that this was a story based on living events where the characters names were changed, I might have gone so far as to say this was one isolated incident went horridly wrong. Yet, there are little nudges of discourse in the chapters themselves, where Scott takes on the role of being a bully rather than a bully’s guardian. In real life this can happen, as those who are tormented can oft times think the best course to deal with their attackers is to turn the tables. However, unlike in real life, a reader is privy to the character’s thoughts and thus, their motivations of a change in outward behaviour. This line of personality change in Scott is never actually addressed in a forthright manner but rather eluded too instead.

Also, what surprised me more than anything is the complete lack of common sense on behalf of all the boys involved, to where they would not confide in anyone: not a parent, a teacher, or a peer adviser. In my own life, if I ever saw any measure of extreme bullying coming towards me, I always deferred first to a faculty member but post haste confided in my parents as soon as I was off school grounds. I knew better than to attempt to deflect the worst threats of which are not always idly spewed by those who choose to cause harm to others. If the story is to serve as a lesson and guide to those who are being bullied, wouldn’t it have been better to write the story with a resolving ending of a better way of addressing the core issue!? And, why end the entire book on a loosely conceived cliffhanger, eluding to a larger story than what was presented?!

I am conflicted to say the least after reading this story in full. I only hope that my review of the book and of the posting of the Q&A session with the author will spark a measure of a response in both comment sections to where the dialogue can become open to all who want to weigh in on this topic which affects all of us. (whether indirectly or directly)

Bullying, Harassment, and Hazing:

The Pact remains true to form what teens regularly face in the fear of their next encounters with those who bully them. The incidents revealed inside do not shock me as they might some who read the story for the first time on just how far young boys will go to torment someone they feel they have the right to enforce power over. I am thankful that my own history of bullying was limited more to verbal insults (which carried with it a hearty dose of emotional anguish) and minor physical altercations which are too minor to mention in light of what occurs in the novel. I am not sure what originally instigated the behaviour of adolescents and college-aged co-eds to haze their fellow students and athletes.

As the story reveals, each of the key bullies of the story: Joe, Sammy, and Mark each have troubles in their own life and homes which starts to unravel what motivates them to torment Scott and Paul. Yet none of their actions would circumvent the actions of Luke, who like Scott is the greatest threat in the story. After concluding your reading of my book review of The Pact please take the time to read:

the first half of this showcase,

my Author Q&A on bullying with Mitchell S. Karnes!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

The “The Pact” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 28 January: Review @ Tiffany’s Bookshelf
  2. 30 January: Author Q&A & Review @ Jorie Loves a Story
  3.  3 February: Review @ Patricia’s Wisdom
  4. 5 February:  Review @ You Can Read Me Anything
  5. 10 February: Review @ Suko’s Notebook
  6. 10 February: Author Q&A @ YA Reads
  7. 12 February: Review @ Maureen’s Musings
  8. 17 February: Review @ Seaside Book Nook
  9. 18 February: Review @ The Things You Can Read
  10. 19 February: Review @ Shelf Full of Books
  11. 20 February: ReviewSavings in Seconds

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

This blog tour is courtesy of:

TLC Book Tours | Tour HostThe Pact
by Mitchell S. Karnes
Source: Author via TLC Book Tours

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: The Dragon's Pawn

Genres: Young Adult Fiction, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy


Published by Black Rose Writing

on 22 August, 2013

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 232

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

{SOURCES:  Mitchell S. Karnes photograph and biography, The Pact book cover and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Thursday, 30 January, 2014 by jorielov in Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Novel, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Gaming, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Light vs Dark, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Role Playing Games, School Life & Situations, Sports and Jocks, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, TLC Book Tours, Transfer Student at School, Wrestling, Young Adult Fiction