Open Wounds - Joe Lunievicz Cid Wymann lives a hard life. His mom died at birth, his dad is a raging alcoholic who doesn’t care about him and his grandmother is an abusive bitch with a secret love for movies aka ‘church services.’ Cid ends up inheriting grandma’s love of films and ends up going to ‘church services’ as well, as a means of escaping his horrible home life. What draws Cid in is Errol Flynn, an actor known for his swashbuckling fencing skills. Eventually, it’s the ability to learn fencing that saves Cid’s life.

I admit I picked this up based on the interesting cover and title. Then I saw this line in the description: “Evocative of The Book Thief with a dash of Gangs of New York, Open Wounds is the page-turning story of a lost boy’s quest to become a man.” and well I was totally sold. I didn’t even care about the fencing piece of the story. “The Book Thief” is one of my favorite YA HF books and if something can come close to it then I’m all for it. Sadly, this didn’t compare to The Book Thief. That’s not to say it wasn’t good. I gave it four stars after all. The problem was that it lacked the creativity of The Book Thief as well as the emotional component. The fencing plot line was an interesting one, but there was nothing creative in the writing style to set it apart. There was a point in The Book Thief where I should’ve invested in Kleenex stock. I was expecting to reach that point with Open Wounds, but I never did.

I think that part of the description set my expectations too high. I was expecting to cry, rage, laugh and feel utterly spent while reading this and well, I didn’t. I felt sympathy for Cid and wanted to yank him out of his situation. Anyone with a heart will feel for Cid, but I didn’t come to the point of tears even though I was at the edge of my seat during those beginning chapters. Grandma was brutal but unfortunately, I was taken out of the scene at one point when Cid claims he bled after being slapped. It didn’t say Grandma wore a ring on her finger or that she hit his nose. It just said he bled after getting slapped repeatedly. I can understand bruising and all that, but drawing blood? Was this bitch on steroids? Did she throw on her iron hand before slapping him? WTF? I know I shouldn’t get hung up on minute details like that, especially in such a horrific scene where a child is getting abuse, but you know it’s the small details that really take a story to the next level. After that scene I felt emotionally manipulated and lost some of my enjoyment.

What made the story for me was Lefty’s appearance. He breathed life into this story and made my heart bleed. He is not the typical father figure, which made him all the more interesting. I loved the relationship between Cid and Lefty. The secondary characters were interesting as well. I loved Cid’s two besties Tommie and Siggy and his drunken fencing teacher Nikolai Varvarinski. It was nice to read a YA book with strong male relationships.

The fencing plot line was an interesting one. I’ve never really cared about fencing because to me it’s always been a rich man sport. However, the author made the sport relatable. I thought he did a good job explaining the sport and the fight scenes were fantastic. I also loved how Lunievicz was able to relate fencing to stage fighting and directions. That piece of the book was handled really well.

Overall, this was a good gritty and violent coming of age story that incorporates strong male bonds and fencing. It was not on par with The Book Thief for me, but it’s definitely worth checking out.