Marshall Thornton
Lethe Press
October 28, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello and welcome once again to The Skullcave, home of Damaged Skull Writer & Reviewer! Today we’ll be checking out another fine book from Steve Berman’s Lethe Press, Never Rest by Marshall Thornton. This Lambda Award Winner is labelled young adult fiction, but a novel like this transcends all boundaries. We’re talking about love, hope, life and death, universal themes for all humans. Not to mention coming out-definitely important stuff for teens and young adults, but also important for people who aren’t in same sex relationships to read about and understand that love is love.

The story kicks off with our reluctant protagonist, Jake, deciding that now is the time to kick the bucket. He has every right to feel this way. After dealing with what he calls “blah-blah-blah leukemia” for the last five years of his teenage-hood, Jake is worn the hell out. The disease is killing him slowly and painfully while modern medicine charges in with a chainsaw to help out. But it seems like the treatments only make things worse with all their side effects. Chemo’s purpose is to kill things and it sure does. Medications and radiation aren’t selective about what they destroy. Jake is stuck in bed watching TV and sleeping all day instead of chasing the man of his dreams. It’s no wonder that he’s in misery!

But just as Jake decides to agree with his medical team’s prognosis and ride the great Morphine train into the next world, his mother comes up with a plan. Jake doesn’t like the plan and tries to resist going to the snazzy new research facility she’s found, but he doesn’t have the strength. So off they go, to the middle of nowhere and a funky old place that sure doesn’t look like a research facility. Dr. Harry is eccentric and some of the staff seem unqualified for what they’re doing. This worries Jake, but he can’t deny that something is happening to his body.

Is it possible that he might actually recover from “blah-blah-blah leukemia?” Will he and the handsome boy in the next bed actually get to have sex, something Jake’s dreamed of for years? Why isn’t there any cellphone service at the Godwin Institute? The deeper we go into Never Rest, the harder it is to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you that the pace picks up a lot and all the mystery will keep you turning pages late into the night. You will likely become emotionally involved with the characters, especially when it becomes clear that Property Fivemight not be a miracle drug and that there are worse things than dying.

But it’s not all doom and gloom in every paragraph. You will find yourself laughing at times because Thornton’s portrayal of a gay teenager is so perfect. I mean how about this line:

“Dying of a terminal illness is like a trip to Detroit. You hear all these terrible things and you really don’t want to go, but when you get there, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be.”  

I mean, with all apologies to Detroit, that’s a perfect way to describe things, especially from a younger person’s viewpoint. There’s also the rather entertaining episode when a new, straight patient named Edmond arrives and quizzes Jake and Goth about the availability of “pussy in this joint.” Poor Edmond reminds me a great deal of Donald Trump, which only makes his pathetic attempt a sexiness even more laughable. I mean he’s got crazy hair, big teeth, and shouts “Yo! You sexy!” as his cool pick-up line.  This is good stuff.  

Damaged Skull Reviewer gives Never Rest by Marshall Thornton a hearty 5 STAR rating! This is a great, complex novel that is so much more than just horror. The characters are really 3-D and you can practically feel the tall grass behind the institute against your legs. There is a LOT going on in 200 pages and I really encourage you to grab a copy of Never Rest from your favorite bookseller! Want to find out more about Lethe Press and all the cool titles they have available for your reading pleasure? Then head on over to Thanks for taking the time to read this review at Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer, I look forward to seeing you soon!

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