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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Breakaway: 1977 by R.M. Kozan is a historical coming-of-age work of literary fiction that revolves around a group of three young outcasts who belong nowhere but with each other in a small-town Canadian landscape. Lionel “Neil” O'Neil, Roger Kay, and Samantha Renfield are bound together through a mutual interest in the science fiction series Space: 1999 and the less welcome but equally relevant harshness of their home and school lives. Their connections between each other, their families, and those who also happen to inhabit Yorkton are drawn out in a unique compilation of transcripts and journal entries, wherein the broken friends have pieces of their lives slowly put back together so the reader can view it as a whole. The backdrop might appear to be a sleepy small town, but soon the violence, bullying, mental health issues, abuse, sexism, and all the horrors that emerge from behind closed doors are exposed in raw detail.
It takes a minute to get into R.M. Kozan's writing style, but once a reader begins to settle in then Breakaway: 1977 takes off almost on its own. Kozan is relentless in the portrayal of Lionel, Roger, and Samantha and the environment that works hard to shape them in all the wrong ways. All three have home lives that force them into the relative safety of their imaginations, all brightened by fierce intellect and a shared love of a television show that offers momentary escapism. Lionel is the darkest horse of the three and it was intriguing to me that Roger was insightful enough to align his friend's extreme difficulties with an episode where an alien entity is unable to connect with different beings and, as a result, runs the risk of destroying them. It's a remarkable analogy that is one of many Kozan casually threads through the novel. Very highly recommended.