Today it is my pleasure to present a review of Kings of Colorado, a book that has flown under the radar up to this point, despite strong reviews.
There is a revealing conversation with David Hilton on the Simon & Schuster website. Hilton used to be a middle school teacher, so he knows young people. And it is interesting that he cites Stephen King’s short story, “The Body,” as one of his influences. Some readers have likened Kings of Colorado to Stand by Me, the 1986 movie based on that story.
Adult/High School–William Sheppard is 13 when he stabs his father. The man does not die, and his mother is not protected by the act or aftermath: Will is bused off to Swope Ranch Boy’s Reformatory in the wilds of Colorado for two years. Those two years are described in horrific detail in short chapters packed with brutal and realistic action. Will finds himself in the company of mostly innocent and definitely vulnerable boys, boys in impossible situations who tried to protect a mother or a sibling, or who simply got into basic everyday trouble. But at least two of them are seriously sociopathic, and along with the abusive prison guards and warden, Will and his friends are wrenchingly shattered, forever defined by the almost-constant yet always-surprising assaults. As Will’s friend Mickey says, “We’ve gotten used to this place. Become comfortable. … along the way we’ve made friends….And then, when we aren’t expecting it, this place rakes us right back into reality…Rips our heart out just for fun.” Gorgeously written, evocative, profound, and downright powerful, this is a perfect book for teens. The adult Will takes up less than 30 pages of the entire book, the premise being that the narrative is his written experiences and memories. Set in the ‘60’s with a focus on breaking horses, the psychological insight crashes through any and all barriers of time and place. As Will says about his desperately scribbled pages: “Terrible and cathartic.”–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA