Books by State: Montana

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

“When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers.

The result is the start of a nightmare. The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains. The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.” — Summary from Amazon

This was a fast-paced, edge of your seat, attention holding story. All the characters were so well-rounded and intriguing in their own ways. The two killers probably most of all. They are written as being the epitome of evil. Their alien level calmness as they cause so much terror and commit atrocities really gets under your skin. The other characters all comment on the way they speak to each other like they are the only two people in the world and like the world belongs to them, bend to their will. The dialogue between the brothers absolutely causes unease in the reader as well. There is just something so completely foreign about them.

It’s impossible to not adore Jace. He’s such a smart kid and strong despite how weak he feels. He and Hannah together made an amazing team as well, neither would have made it as far as they did without each other. Hannah had the fire knowledge and determination, and Jace had the recent survival guide lessons from Ethan and patience to think through and plan. Hannah was portrayed as incredibly haunted and traumatized which mixes and mingles with her growing motherly protectiveness of Jace. I believe she wanted to save him because she grew found of him and he obviously deserved saving, but she was also doing it to make up for not being able to save a family from a previous forest fire she worked in. She saw the boy from that family in Jace and had constant flashbacks throughout trying to get Jace to safety, but it’s not like she didn’t see him as his own individual person who she cared for more and more as time went on.

Ethan and his wife Allison constantly prove their strength through each other. Everything they do, they do together. They built their house together and run the survival training program together. Even though the plan was for Ethan to stay secluded in the mountains with the boys, they always carry the other close in their heart and draw strength from that connection.

The setting of the Montana wilderness was perfect for the story as well. It’s beautiful, awe-inspiring, but also incredibly deadly if not handled with precaution. The added threat of the forest fire elevates the stakes and suspense factor.

I also watched the movie adaptation right after I finished reading the book. They made a lot of unnecessary changes to the story in my opinion. I can certainly understand it’s a difficult thing to alter and shorten a book enough to make it fit into the time frame of a movie, but I think plenty of adaptations do a really good job of it without changing too many things. The movie certainly wasn’t bad! I just think you’d like it more if you hadn’t read the book first. One thing I did like was that they made Hannah more fun and energetic instead of solely haunted. Obviously she was still struggling with the past, but she had a bit more of a spark of life to her in the movie which I thought was a nice touch.

I would recommend both honestly, but I do recommend the book more 🙂

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