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Review: Barnabas Bopwright Saves the City – J. Marshall Freeman

Barnabas Bopwright Saves the City - J. Marshall Freeman

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery

LGBTQ+ Category: Queer

Reviewer: Lucy

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About The Book

Fifteen-year-old Barnabas Bopwright is proud to live in the greatest city on earth. But under the shiny exterior lurks the hidden cost of the city’s skyscraping success.

On his way to school, Barnabas discovers a transit map with an unknown subway line. Soon he’s on an impossible train, running from authorities who have guarded the city’s dark mysteries for a century. The subway brings Barnabas to a hidden valley outside the city where he’s drawn into a terrifying world of deception and revenge.

In the valley, Barnabas discovers new friendships, a death-defying circus, an evil emporium, and a surprising attraction for another boy. But when his investigations uncover a terror plot to destroy the city he loves, Barnabas realizes it’s up to him to save his home and bring deadly secrets into the light before it’s too late.

The Review

Barnabas Bopwright Saves the City by J. Marshall Freeman was a lot of fun to read – an endearingly sweet YA thriller with everything that makes a good story: excellent writing, believable, relatable characters, and a great, if somewhat convoluted, plot. 

Barnabas Bopwright is at school, more or less minding his own business, when he has an unexpectedly violent encounter with the bodyguard of the city’s mayor. Combined with some odd behavior he’d witnessed on the subway, Barnabas is angry, confused, and determined to figure out what’s going on. But, he might’ve bitten off more than he can chew. He finds a hidden world separate from the city he loves, but with a symbiotic connection that cannot be ignored.

This is a delightful coming-of-age story in which Barnabas learns a lot about himself. He has been quietly crushing on his best friend, Deni, and assuming that she would be his girlfriend, but without asking her, or himself, if that’s what they really want. After he discovers a secret, hidden subway and a plot to blow up the city, Barnabas has to decide what he’s willing to do to save not just the city but the hidden valley below that keeps the city growing and functioning. He makes new friends, discovers that he’s more clever and tenacious than he’d ever given himself credit for, and that adults don’t always have all, or even the correct, answers. 

There was a lovely plethora of characters that range from the ridiculous to the sublime. And they represent many of the letters in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, which was beautifully done. The plot is fast-paced enough to keep the reader interested and engaged but not overdone so that the reader feels overwhelmed or lost. I enjoyed that the chapters were titled for the day of the week so that it was easy to keep track of the timeline for the story. 

I am that nerd-reader who enjoys the author’s notes, the dedications, the preface, and anything the author wants to share about themselves and their story. J. Marshall Freeman begins the book with a note that Barnabas was his first novel, but sat, unfinished and unedited, for a long time. I’m glad that he went back to this story, blew off the dust and took on the editing necessary for reshaping it into its current form.

This story was definitely worth the effort and I’m happy it made it to the point of publishing. It was excellent from start to finish, filled with adventure and angst, and a lovely cast of characters who were relatable, believable, and very charming. 

The Reviewer

I’m an avid reader who loves pretty much all genres except math textbooks. As a kid, my parents exposed me to everything from fairies, hobbits, and dragons to the biographies of interesting people around the world, interspersed with poetry, plays, and music. Into adulthood, I spent a lot of years with my nose buried in various textbooks. Now, I read whatever grabs my fancy.

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