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Review: Kings of Colorado by David E Hilton

In a sentence or so: William Sheppard reflects back on his life as a boy growing up on Swope Ranch Boys' Reformatory after stabbing his abusive father.

Will sees a horse dying in the middle of a busy street after the trailer carrying the horse was hit by a SUV. Cradling the dying horse's head in his arms and comforting the animal as it passes drudges up old memories. Memories that Will would rather he not remember. Will knows by thinking his memories, let alone writing them down, they will become freshly vivid and intense and overwhelming - even after fifty years. He also knows he has to do it in order to get justice, maybe even revenge, for his closest friends.

In a balance of memoir and narrative fiction, Will takes the reader on his emotionally raw and overwhelming journey. Starting at only 13, Will is arrested for what many readers will believe is a justifiable crime. None the less, Will is sent to a reformatory to serve out a two year sentence. Those two years bring pain, injustice, heart break, unspeakable tragedies and so much hurt. They also bring friendship, an increasing awareness of the world and the adults who run it, and self discovery.

This book made me ill. I do mean that as a compliment, by the way. By having the main character reflect back on his past, we get an account of how things really went down without the dialogue feeling forced or the emotions feeling too adult. The horror these kids went through - brought on by themselves, from their peers, or the adults who ran the place - was gut-wrenching to read. It's an incredible story and fantastically written, so despite the gnawing ache of nausea in my stomach, I read on. I always read on because Will's story demanded to be heard.

This book is not for the weak of heart. Hell, it's not even for the strong of heart. This is a book that exposes the real hurt and insanity and twisted desire for pain that exists in our world. I never felt like any of it was too over the top either, or that none of it couldn't possibly be real. Which, of course, was the worst part of all.

If you're looking for an emotionally intense and compelling and ultimately rewarding coming-of-age story told from an adult perspective, give this one a read. I can't stress enough how well written and balanced this book is in terms of action, plot, hurt, hope, and confusion. Really, it's fantastic. Just make sure you take frequent breaks to look at pictures of rainbows or unicorns or something.

Fave Quotes: 
"In the summer of 1963, when I was thirteen, I stabbed my father in the chest with a Davy Crockett Explorers pocketknife." (OPENING LINE. I know. pg. 1)
"Horses came and went, delinquent boys came and went. The boys broke the horses, Swope Reformatory broke the boys." (pg. 25)

Fix er up: Truly, this was so well written. The hits just kept coming and coming and it was too much for my heart to bear sometimes.

Title: Kings of Colorado: A Novel
Author: David E. Hilton
Publishing Info: Paperback released Jan 2011 from Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult Fiction, Coming of Age, Drama

[FTC Notice: I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review to celebrate the release of this novel in paperback. Thanks, Amanda!]

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. This sounds incredibly intense. It's intriguing though, especially because it tells a story that seems to put your heart through the wringer.

  2. I have been eyeing this book since I first saw the title (I try to read most books set in CO since I live here), but now I'm definitely going to have to get it!

  3. I honestly don't know if I could handle reading this. It seems completely out of my comfort zone and something that I feel my leave me curled up in a ball feeling sick to my stomach. So of course, I must try it out! This is a fantastic review, as always, and I love that you shared your honest feelings about it (the fact that it made you sick, I mean).

  4. Weird. I was at our local B&N yesterday and saw this book! Now I wish I had grabbed it! Rats - guess I'll just have to go back this afternoon! :-) Thanks for the great review!

  5. What an amazing opening line! It reminds me of one of my favorites: "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." (The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox)

  6. Oh man, the horses die/get hurt/are mistreated? Props to you for powering through because I seriously have issues with animal hurts; weirdly enough, horses and dogs ESPECIALLY. But it does sound intense and thoughtful, and that opening line ROCKS.

  7. I remember hearing about this book a LONG time ago and so when you told me this was the one you were reading 1) I knew which one it was immediately and 2) I was a little bit surprised. Was this a book club pick? This is out of your element, no?

    It sounds like a great book. Cormac McCarthy-ish, but not quite. But sort of. I kind of want to read it sometime, but just not right now. Ya know? I LOVE that you got a lot from it. Now pick up something light and airy!



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