Vanished from Dust by Shea Norwood
‘Vanished from Dust’ by Shea Norwood is the first in a series of supernatural adventure tales that center on two eighth-grade friends, Eric Stark and Kyle Barrett, as they race to save their fictional hometown of Dust, Texas from impending doom. Eric Stark would love to be just a run-of-the-mill eighth grader trying desperately to fit in with his classmates and avoid his daily tormentor at school, Greg Coffey. Instead, he is plagued by visions of “phantoms,” tall, pitch-black figures with glowing red eyes that appear periodically and only to Eric. Or so he thinks. Eric and Kyle spend the bulk of the story unraveling the great mystery lurking underneath Dust and connecting the dots between the town drunk, the phantoms, the mysterious disappearance of a young girl and why everyone in Dust seems to be exhausted at all hours.
Norwood’s descriptions throughout the book are simple and effective. There isn’t much frill or flourish in the story’s language and it only runs a trim 158 pages. Norwood is also able to carefully craft the character differences of the two best friends; the cautious, shy introvert Eric and the more brazen, often-courageous Kyle. The differences in the home lives of the children are a very effective way of subtly characterizing the two boys. Eric is an only child, his mother and father are together, and they have plenty of money. Kyle’s father isn’t around and his mother works tirelessly (Kyle mentions late in the book that she never misses work) to support him, his older brother and younger sister. Where the book lacks is pacing. While the book balances phantom encounters with Greg Coffey confrontations with scenes that build Eric and Kyle’s friendship very well in the first 90 pages, the second half of the book relies almost solely on Eric and Kyle’s investigation of the mysteries of Dust. These scenes, while necessary and sometimes effective, are either strung too close together or are too far apart to keep up the pace as the book’s climax approaches. ‘Vanished from Dust’ is a fun, quick read. Norwood has written his characters extremely well and has spun a mystery well worth the day or two it will take most readers to finish this book.
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