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Blood and Sympathy Kindle Edition
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Braden Sayer is the twin brother of Brogan Sayer. Implicated in Brogan’s arson scheme that killed their stepfather, Braden has also been incarcerated in juvenile detention since they were twelve. Now seventeen, Braden has his eye on early release for good behavior while Brogan has his eye on release by any means necessary.
Claire Copeland is only eleven months younger than her sister Olivia, and while their physical appearance often has them mistaken as twins, their personalities couldn’t be much different. 19 year old college student Olivia is the good girl, always intent to please their reverend father. 18 year old high school senior Claire is the “bad girl,” not above sneaking out and “borrowing” her sister’s car to party and have sex. But it’s Olivia who puts Claire in the orbit of the Sayer brothers through a pen pal program with the detention center.
Braden and Claire are matched as pen pals. The program’s policy is to state your intentions in the beginning whether a romantic relationship is part of the correspondence and despite Claire’s affirmed intentions not to make a love connection, she does. What Claire initially does out of obligation, soon become something they both look forward to. This part of the story is sweet and shows how simple friendship can lead to love. Braden’s letters even make Claire start to tire of her partying ways and her drunk, abusive lover.
They usual stereotypes of bad boy/good girl are switched up as Braden is the good twin, virginal, and a gentleman. In contrast, Claire is the experienced one who does what she wants, not caring what others think. Braden is a real sweetie. He’s caring, he’s gentle, and he wants to do the right thing. He’s definitely one to root for as he’s rather been dealt an unfair hand. Okay, he had my sympathy. Claire is a bit of a wild card. Sometimes that made her fun, other times her reckless behavior (unprotected sex, driving under the influence) was a turn-off.
The story has a good premise and potential. The family dynamics are interesting and lend further discussions of good/bad and right/wrong. Is Reverend Copeland really such an upstanding, holy man if he treats his daughters so differently and judges Braden without knowing him? Look also for the theme of mirroring: Braden and Brogan’s first time experiences post incarceration; Reverend Copeland and Uncle Jeb’s alliance with the good ones in their family.
Aside from the obvious themes in the story of good vs. evil and nature vs. nurture, guilt and blame also play a major role. Events in the story unfold in ways that responsibility could be analyzed and argued.
Should Braden carry blame for his “sympathy?” Is Claire’s lifestyle and choices at fault for putting her sister in danger? Or was Olivia Copeland’s innocent involvement in the pen pal program ultimately the first chain in the events leading to her demise? Who has blood on their hands?
There were times I found Braden and Claire’s actions confusing/out of character or perhaps more plot driven than anything else. To avoid spoilers I’ll simply say that maybe Braden under-reacted and Claire over-reacted. I really felt that Claire misplaced blame, and it affected my fundamental like of her character in the end. And the ending, while complete, and technically happy, leaves open the possibility for more mayhem to come.
But judge for yourself…pick up a copy today of Blood and Sympathy. Who will you have sympathy for?
Braden Sayer has been locked away in juvie for 6 years. An accomplice to a heinous act, he spends his childhood growing up in confinement. His twin brother Brogan is to thank for his fate, the mastermind behind a crime that landed them both in lock up. Braden is definitely the kinder of the two, the boy who always strived to make others happy, to do the best he could. Vowing to change his future when he is released on his 18th birthday, his only goal is to live out his sentence and get his life back on track as quickly as possible. When a letter arrives from a new pen pal, a girl he remembers from the life he left behind...things begin to change.
“I know he’s blood and all, but blood is no reason for sympathy.”
Claire Copeland isn’t the good daughter. The youngest daughter of Reverand Copeland, the pressure to live up to her perfect older sister’s image is high. Olivia is exactly the type of daughter the Reverand can be proud of. The two girls couldn’t be more different if they tried, Claire the typical rebellious girl, Olivia the upstanding good girl. Despite their varying personalities, the two are very close and that is something I loved. The sibling rivalry was well natured, at the root of it all, they counted on each other. When Olivia convinces Claire to begin writing to an inmate at the juvenile detention center as a pen pal, she at first protests. I mean really, what young high school girl wants to waste their time writing to some criminal? But after a few letters are exchanged with Braden, its clear there is more to him than just bad behaviour. It isn’t long before a bond is formed between the two. I found that I loved this part of the book most of all. Experiencing the two of them fall for each other through their letters was heartwarming and so unique. I was in a hurry to get to the next scenes with their letters to each other. Two souls who are seen as the bad, the good in them not recognized by those around them, they found each other in a time they needed someone the most.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending
Braden’s release sets in motion a turn of events that cannot be undone. Sinister forces and evil lurk in the shadows, there are people that would rather see them suffer than find the happiness they both desire. As the two explore a relationship beyond letters, will the bond they formed be strong enough to combat what’s coming? What do you do when the walls you built threaten to come crashing down? Is blood really thicker than water? This is a book that will keep you guessing with the suspense, warm your heart with love and shatter you with the unthinkable.
“By the strength within, I shall succeed.”
From three points of view, the reader gets viewpoints of everything surrounding what's happening in this small Tennessee town. The entire balance walks a fine line between good and evil. A theme ever-present as this also reveals the question of nature vs. nurture. The psychological questions present themselves in such a way it's hard not to think about your own perspectives on the issues in regards to these characters. What makes one brother more evil than the next? One sister want to be a good girl and the other a rebel? How do those choices, if they are even choices, affect the outcome of our lives? How much of our personalities are based on the genetic makeup of our families? It's always interesting to me to analyze a book with these things in mind and that's exactly what the author has done here: make the reader think deeper in order to better understand the story.
The characters all possess intriguing qualities. Separately I don't know if any one of them stood out to me as great, but rather as a whole cast the way their stories intersect, connect, and as they each become of part of the others lives - both good and bad - totally worked for me. Claire Copeland and Braden Sayer were the main focus of the romantic relationship in Blood and Sympathy and their story inside the events directly affecting them is very sweet. Both of them crave a certain freedom they don't have in their young lives, both confide in the other about the desires they wish to fulfill through letters. The progression of their coupling naturally flows. I most liked Claire's strength as a young woman, in her convictions, in her fight, and in her heart. After conflict between her and Braden she's a woman who stands up for what she believes she needs at the time and has the bravery to admit to an emotional reaction.
This was an interesting world to visit. I had no idea what to expect when the author asked me to read this story. I know now I greatly appreciate the opportunity. Blood and Sympathy takes an age old debate over good vs. evil and makes it into a psychologically thrilling young love story. It's different and unique with characters who complement each other in the best of ways. Give it a try!
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