Jessica Rose’s Review
Back before Dark is the second book in the Code of Silence Series. My cousin, Jenna (the one whom I convinced to read the books) asked me for the second book as soon as she finished the first book – a sign that the books are really good. The first chapter of Back before Dark leaves you hanging so you are hooked on to the book just when you first started it.
It starts with an ordinary bike ride to Walmart but turns out to be a nightmare come true. A minivan cruises down the parking lot with a backpack on the top. Gordy, trying to be helpful and win a bet that he can’t reach the van, manages to catch up to it before it turns on Meadow Drive. While Gordy is getting the backpack down like the driver asked, he is tasered! Cooper MacKinnon – Gordy’s cousin almost catches up, but is too late. Gordy is gone.
The police try to find the kidnapper and Gordy but when Cooper, Hiro, and Lunk arrive at the police station the minivan is nowhere to be seen. It could be in Wisconsin or Indiana by then. At school they get posters to give out and after school they check a few parking lots for the minivan to no avail. During lunch time at school one day Cooper is scheduled to meet with a psychologist who asks Cooper if his motivation is guilt. Cooper, having decided the previous fall to stop lying, admits that it most likely is; he should have biked with Gordy to the van, he should not have bet that Gordy couldn’t catch the van, he should have remembered the license number. The shrink says only superman could have stopped the kidnapping, but Cooper isn’t so sure.
It turns out guilt isn’t too good of a motivation after all. After a few close calls and bad experiences, Cooper begins to realize that. Almost everyone besides him thinks Gordy is dead, even his other two best friends. Hiro tries to stop him from doing all of the wrong things he is doing. She says, “A real friend helps keep his friend from walking into trouble,” while Lunk (who is behind a few of the crazy ideas) responds,” Or is willing to walk through the trouble with his friend if he has to.” Cooper finally gets rid of his motivation of guilt when he changes to a different one – Love. Dr. McElhinney tells Cooper, “Love is stronger than all [Greed, Power, Hatred, Guilt, Fear, Revenge] combined … it’s powerful … you must be careful and control it-or you can get in over your head.”
Hiro and Lunk are worried about Cooper after he tells them he has no more plans. Is it just uneasiness or is Cooper trying to do a terrifying plan without anyone again? Love is a strong motivation and Cooper could be planning to do something that if anyone found out – they would do everything in their power to stop him.
Back before Dark shows that love is strong and conquers all, and that sometimes rescuing a friend from the darkness means going in after them.
Recommended age: Ten and up
Re-readability: Very re-readable!
Bonita Jewel’s Review
Back before Dark begins with Cooper, Hiro, and Gordy biking home one evening, their new friend Lunk bringing up the rear in his small BMX. Resting in the park before their final stretch home, Cooper spots a minivan driving slowly with a backpack on top. Hiro challenges Gordy to catch up with the van, and Gordy takes off after it. But something is wrong. First Hiro, then Cooper, sense it. Before they can catch up with Gordy, though, the driver shoots him with a Taser and shoves him into the van. Cooper’s cousin has been kidnapped.
Hiro feels she should have known better, or caught it sooner. Her dad was a cop, after all, and she wants to be a police officer one day. Lunk struggles with feeling accepted while wishing he could do something for Cooper – who had welcomed him into their small group. He wonders why he wasn’t taken instead; at least fewer people would miss him if he was really gone.
Cooper hates that everyone is acting like his cousin, Gordy, is gone for good. He knows he can’t give up searching, no matter if everyone else has given up. He begins to follow his own leads, and ends up getting himself into deep water. But the deepest water is what Gordy is facing. Alone in a flooding basement. If someone doesn’t find him soon, he’ll go under. Literally.
Cooper knows he’s no hero, but what if he’s his cousin’s only hope? And what if the only way to help a friend out of darkness is being engulfed by the darkness himself?
Author Tim Shoemaker creates realistic and down-to-earth characters that feel like friends by the end of the book. The reader experiences the struggles, thoughts, fears, and victories right along with Cooper, Gordy, Lunk, and Hiro. Morals are woven into the story without being “taught,” making for a thrilling, entertaining, and meaningful read for all ages.
Recommended age: 10 +
Re-readability: Yes, I plan to reread the series in the upcoming year, this time with my 10-year-old son.
Note for parents: This is a great book to read with your child, as it touches on important safety concepts. At the end of the book, you’ll find a section on safety and awareness.