Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Nate’s always been a good kid. But when he becomes friends with the new guy at school, Cam, his family notices a change. Cam’s the kind of guy who forces him to think about life, the universe, and his dreams … and, yeah, sometimes they break the rules. Soon their two worlds twist around each other and, as Nate explores his feelings for Cam, everything implodes in a fistfight that ends up with Nate stabbed and Cam in jail. Now Nate’s forced to give a statement under oath. But to tell the truth about everything that happened? Well, that’s complicated.

Never before has a debut caused so much emotional whiplash. However much praise Zack Smedley is currently getting for this book is not enough. Deposing Nathan is nothing short of a complete triumph. Period. Full Stop. And yes, that might sound like raving praise, but so rarely does a novel come along, particularly a debut, that provides such a complicated and satisfying reading experience as this one does.

Smedley achieves this by using a unique framing device. The opening showcases how everything brutally ends: Nate and Cam fighting. However, Smedley quickly pulls back and reveals that this action has already happened. Nate’s actually speaking at a deposition, reliving the past several months under the gaze of the very cast of characters that caused so much tumult: his father, his aunt Lori, and, of course, Cam himself. It’s awkward and uncomfortable as Nate recounts how a simple friendship blossomed into something violent, and Smedley draws as much tension from these scenes as possible.

Genuisely, this setting also gives heft to Nate’s story. While some of his actions might make him seem like an unreliable narrator, the fact that he’s at a deposition suggests that the reader is hearing the whole truth.

With that, it’s the characters themselves that make everything click. They’re unapologtically messy, caught in the weird period of transition that is high school. Nate struggles with himself, his faith, and his family all without examining his legitimate problems. Cam, cocky but vulnerable, confuses him with his constant questioning and unique worldview. Their relationship and interactions are entirely believable in a way that isn’t always happy or pleasant, but it’s always real.

It helps that Smedley has an amazingly readable style. Short chapters packed with action and snappy banter, this book flies by. And yet it’s anything but breezy. Rather, it’s like a roller coaster without a visible ending. It loops and turns, careening dangerously until it suddenly stops. And upon exit, there’s a moment of sadness that it’s over, but pure contentment that it happened at all.

This is the book to read this year.


Title: Deposing Nathan
Author: Zack Smedley
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication Date: May 07, 2019
Classification: Young Adult

Smedley’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

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