Richard R. Becker’s Third Wheel is about a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes involved with a group of notorious teenagers and their wild, perilous exploits in a crime-ridden town. Brady Wilks realizes that life with his mother and stepfather is not as great as he expected after leaving his grandparents and coming to Las Vegas. Though he finds camaraderie and a feeling of belonging with a new group of friends, he is compelled to confront his morals and act as the voice of reason when they encounter extremely risky situations. Meanwhile, he enjoys his fascination with drugs, guns, and an older girl that’s way above his league. Is Brady too far gone or can he be saved from his bad company?
I appreciated how the backstories are gradually exposed as the narrative weaves through a busy plot with several unexpected turns. Brady is seen as someone who rarely backs down from a fight or a challenge, even when it comes to dating someone older than him. Nonetheless, his self-doubt and need to have friends get him into more trouble than he can handle on his own. This is when his age shows, and he becomes the broken, mistreated child that the reader can’t help but sympathize with.
Another amazing part of the novel is how real and lifelike the interactions and characters are. The everyday rituals and actions of the teens remind me of my teenage days, especially when they play and taunt one other. For example, Brady is teased for having a girlfriend, which he denies passionately, in a notable scene.
The lighthearted themes are seamlessly mixed with some darker, more mature themes: murder, drug dealing, self-harm, and betrayal. Furthermore, there is a sense of danger in the air, with the chance of one especially wild character being too much for the group of friends to manage, or the drug cartels putting an end to the teenager’s meddling in an adult game.
Third Wheel provides the reader with both humorous and nostalgic memories as well as a seriously suspenseful and exhilarating experience that transports the reader to 1980s, culturally diverse Las Vegas. The book is a wonderful narrative in every way, from lyrical language to impeccable characterization and an addictive series of events. Anyone who saw me reading the book would assume I was entirely absorbed by it since I sat like I was literally being drawn in by the text, leaning forward and forgetting to sit straight. If you want a similarly engaging experience, you should read this book. I strongly hope that Richard R. Becker continues to write novels after creating this brilliant, mind-blowing debut novel that ends with a big surprise.
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