Fans of Serial will love Bryan Bliss’ newest YA novel, which follows a teen on death row. The book slowly unravels the mystery of how he got behind bars, and it sounds heartrending:
Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have dreamed of one thing: getting out of their dead-end town. Soon they finally will, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, never looking back. If they don’t drift apart first. If Toby’s abusive dad, or Luke’s unreliable mom, or anything else their complicated lives throw at them don’t get in the way.
But then one choice—or maybe it is a series of choices—sets them down an irrevocable path. We’ll Fly Away weaves together Luke and Toby’s senior year of high school with letters Luke writes to Toby later—from death row.
Bliss, whose novel Meet Me Here earned a spot on our list of 2016’s best YA books, tells Paste that his upcoming book was inspired by a tragic experience.
“Fifteen years ago, I was a press witness to an execution,” he says. “I saw a man put to death. Since then, I’ve searched for some way to express the shame and understand the injustice of that experience. The pursuit took me to seminary. It pushed me to read every book I could find about capital punishment and mass incarceration. I attended vigils and protested at public forums. I taught classes at prisons and juvenile correctional facilities. And I ultimately befriended death row inmates and wrote letters until my hand cramped. All of it to make sense of/run away from/finally process what happened in that tiny, triangular room.
“When I started We’ll Fly Away, I always called it my ‘death penalty book.’ But the more I’ve worked on Luke and Toby’s story, I’ve realized ‘death penalty book’ no longer sufficiently covers the scope of it. Yes, it is a book about the death penalty. But it’s also a book about friendship. It’s about growing up hard, in a way that forces you to make choices you’d otherwise not make. It’s a book about wanting to escape. It’s about love and loyalty. It’s about people who care, even when you don’t. And maybe most importantly, it’s a book that invites readers ask the question: do I believe a person can ever be beyond redemption? My hope is that, after reading We’ll Fly Away, the only answer can be: no.”
Greenwillow Books will release We’ll Fly Away on May 18, 2018, but we’re excited to share an exclusive early look at the cover designed by Matt Roeser.