Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I’m not a murderer. I’m not a murderer.”
With Black Lives Matter protests and the killing of George Floyd still fresh in everyone’s minds, the reading of this book was perfectly timed. With a similar story line so in depth and captivating right until the end, I would urge everyone, fan of crime fiction or not, to read this and educate yourselves further! This was such an eye-opening reading experience for me, perfectly written by an incredibly talented author. I’m honoured to share my views on this one!
Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.
Ryan and other characters, Jade and Kelly – three people from different worlds – are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.
The author’s tone had me invested in this story from page one; conversational, to the point and with a kind of grittiness which couldn’t be ignored. Ryan, a police officer from the Philadelphia police department, committed a crime so terrible that he’s left contemplating his fate. Ryan describes the event as a complete accident and that the use of deadly force was justified, but I wasn’t convinced we were getting the full story. Straight away, I knew I was in for a hell of a ride with this book and I needed to find out the truth about what happened that day! The author seems to effortlessly get the story started in a strong, solid way and this gave me great confidence for the rest of the book. With the perspectives of two other characters coming to light, I was intrigued to see how their stories were linked together and how important they would be to the story.
The way the story changed to focus from Ryan to Jade and Kelly throughout the beginning of the book was really impressive. It creates depth and allows us to get to know different groups of people who are linked to the victim in different ways. I loved hearing their stories and how they attempted to piece together what happened to Tyrell. We really feel the emotion of his family and understand the pain and suffering they’re going through. The author draws us in with these perfectly portrayed thoughts and feelings from the victim’s family, but also piques our curiosity with Ryan’s version of events, which we are yet to make complete sense of. So far, the story was completely flawless and I was so looking forward to putting the pieces together along with some wonderfully created characters!
There are serious themes covered within this story and there are important messages hidden within its words that we all should take note of. I must applaud the author for covering the topics that need to be talked about more, and for doing it incredibly well. The book builds awareness of racism and highlights how this is still such a huge problem across the globe. At this point in the book, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of Ryan. He knew he’d done wrong, but how exactly had the shooting played out? Was it really self defence, or did he pull the trigger for another reason? With his partner, Greg, stressing the importance of getting rid of the surveillance camera video footage, this just set those alarm bells off in my mind. What exactly were they hiding from everyone else? Would the truth about Tyrell’s death come out, or would there be no justice?
“Every time I thought I had crossed the line of no return, Greg found an even darker place to take me.”
Ryan begins counselling after collapsing from a panic attack; the shooting has had an immense effect on him, troubling his thoughts daily and causing depression and anxiety. Through these counselling sessions, we learned more about Ryan and we also gained an insight into his subconscious. Was there a deeper meaning behind why he did what he did to Tyrell? What role does his own father play in all this? Reading about this and getting to know this character on a deeper level was so powerful, and it helped to slot certain pieces of information into place in my mind. The author keeps giving us small pieces of the puzzle to put together ourselves and the whole of the beginning of the book was an amazing reading experience. I knew there was only more greatness to come from this book!
As the story continues, Kelly and his ex-wife, Regina, work with the best lawyer in town to build up a case to hopefully see the arrest of the officers involved in their son’s death. Now, this part of the book blew me away and split my views considerably! One the one hand, you have Kelly, Jade and the rest of Tyrell’s family who want justice, and I really wanted them to succeed in their mission. On the other hand, we have a young cop who hates what he’s done and could lose everything because of his impulse actions. Even though what he did was unforgivable, I felt a little sorry for him too! I haven’t read many books where I’ve rooted for both sides in some way, so it was a very unusual experience for me, but also a very welcoming one. The author has crafted this to perfection, effortlessly creating solid characters you’re just automatically attached to. There was still so much to question, however, and I thought there would soon be more evidence revealed that would strengthen my views further.
With eye-witness footage of the shooting surfacing, things start to look dark for Ryan and his career. His depression gets worse and he begins to drink more aggressively and ignore his family more often. Meanwhile, Kelly and the rest of Tyrell’s family do everything they can to fight for justice. I enjoyed reading more about Kelly’s past, and also how he steps up to be the father he should have been when his kids were growing up. For a lot of characters, we see some immense growth which made the book all the more powerful to read. When Ryan’s home is attacked and the safety of his family is threatened, things really begin to heat up and the danger escalates. We find out more information about who is behind this attack and I was confident the story was about to reach its darkest point yet!
As well as a little violence, the story also describes how a character self harms, so this is something to be aware of if you choose to read Hands Up. The book continues to fill the reader with emotion through such powerful scenes and description, proving the author is such a talented writer. My emotions were all over the place in the middle of the book! It was so interesting to see how the author managed to link up the lives of all the characters, without Tyrell’s family even meeting Ryan face to face. Of course, I was naturally excited to see if their paths did cross at some point, or whether their lives were completely separated continuously throughout the whole book. Again, another unique feature of the book which makes the reading experience all the more unforgettable. With Ryan’s fate taking an even more unpredictable turn, we’re left wondering how he’d cope in the worst case scenario, and just whether he’d be able to return to his true self after this life changing ordeal.
“Don’t worry. Justice is coming.”
Ryan makes some tough decisions about the future of his career, even though his family and partner aren’t too keen on his plans. He makes the decision to relocate to a black neighbourhood to help himself heal and learn from his past actions, and it made me wonder whether anyone could ever truly heal from a past like his own. Kelly, Jade and the rest of Tyrell’s family continue to grieve, but there was a particularly moving scene which really stuck with me. Tyrell’s family and a large group of protesters joined together and showed that violence was not the answer to what they wanted to achieve. Again, this was really emotional to read but even so, it was such a beautiful scene. It also shows how Kelly and Regina have built up their relationship from completely broken, to civil with a little dash of rekindled love too – just what I wanted from these characters! It just goes to show what working together can achieve, even if they reunited due to such a saddening and unexpected turn of events in their lives.
An unlikely relationship grows between two characters, but is it genuine? Jade meets a drunken cop in the bar where she works, which just happens to be none other than Ryan. Jade learns his real identity but agrees to see him out of hours for dinner to hear the truth about the shooting. Again, this was totally unexpected, but I liked the way these characters met – very clever! Ryan seems oblivious to Jade’s plans to catch him out, whilst Greg warns him to stay away from her. However, is this something he’s willing to do? Or is he genuinely falling for the woman whose brother he shot dead? Ryan finds himself in even more of a pickle thanks to Jade’s plans, and something unexpected happens that could turn their entire lives around. I was so impressed with how many times the author has surprised me throughout this book, and I loved the balance of suspense, heartbreak and even forgiveness in parts.
After receiving an offer he can’t refuse, Ryan is left questioning his future once again. He finds himself having to relive the night of the shooting once again to the person who needed to hear it the most, this time giving the reader the whole story with even more meaning. It was the part of the book I’d been waiting for, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. I felt a sense of relief as he described what happened, and I think Ryan shows so much regret and sadness through his words in this part of the story. The author has really nailed the dialogue throughout the story, but in particular during the final few scenes in the book. My feelings grew from not being sure about him and his truthfulness, to feeling like he’d turned a new leaf and understood the severity of his actions, even if things weren’t entirely his fault.
As the book draws to a close, Kelly continues to fight for his daughter’s blessing. Jade finds it difficult to accept that her father is back in her life and fears that he’s simply going to walk away again when things get too tough. I feel like I’d gotten to know Kelly pretty well throughout the book – I think he’s my favourite character! He’s a sign of hope for the younger generation and is living proof that even someone in the darkest of mindsets can turn their life around. I found this to be a very valuable trait and Kelly was such an interesting and rewarding character to portray. Again, the author has really created some very thorough and well thought out characters that all worked so well together in the telling of the story. There wasn’t a single part of their journey that I’d change. The book simply wouldn’t be the same without each and every one of them.
“The truth was he’d painted himself into a corner and he didn’t see any way out.”
The ending of the book was phenomenal and took a completely different turn than I expected. Jade is more determined than ever to bring her father down, and Ryan will do everything in his power to keep her safe and happy, even when his own life is on a downward spiral. My eyes brimmed with tears and I was covered in goosebumps as I read the final couple of chapters – the words were incredibly powerful as were the scenes and outcomes for all the characters, whether they were good, or bad. I know this book will stick with me for some time, and it’s opened my eyes further to the dangers different communities face. A perfect book with lessons we can all learn from and one of my favourites reads this year!
I don’t think it’s possible to put into words how truly grateful I am that the author of the this book went on to publish Hands Up. It’s one of those books that everyone needs to read in their lifetime! Filled with important life lessons about racism and the BLM movement, the book is extremely powerful and moving right to its core. The characters are so real and different from one another, which makes their journey a particularly intriguing one. An emotional and captivating read, but definitely one that needs to be told.
Big thanks to the author of the book, Stephen Clark for my copy of this incredible book to read and review. You can purchase your own copy of Hands Up over on Amazon now, available on Kindle or paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter for more updates.