Book Review: The Fifteenth of June by Brent Jones

Twenty years after his mother’s brutal murder, Drew Thomson’s life is well on the way to hitting rock bottom.

His habits cause him to lose his job, and his best/only friend Neil is more interested in getting drunk and chasing tail than providing any level of support.  Drew then decides through objective evaluation that the best thing for his long-term girlfriend is a distinct lack of Drew. He dumps her, moves out, and accepts his life at a new job in which he has no interest, spending his work time drinking and being drawn into an unfamiliar, uncertain, but exciting relationship with Kara.

To be clear, this book is not my usual genre. The action and adventure of high fantasy is where I usually live, so entering the dreary world of Drew was definitely outside of my comfort zone. Despite this, I found this a fascinating read. It has a level of a darkness to it that while not quite rivalling Requiem for a Dream, is definitely headed down that path.

Conveniently, the challenge of stepping outside one’s comfort zone is one of the critical themes surrounding this novel. Drew lives a passive lifestyle, following his father’s advice to simply accept the world as it is. While The Fifteenth of June centres around a passive-aggressive, substance abusing, gambling addict, there is a pleasantly surprising amount of depth to Brent Jones’ emotionally charged debut novel and I found myself drawn in and absorbed by the downward spiral of Drew’s own creation.

Through Drew, his perceptions of his father, Russell, and brother, Logan, we see different ways in which the death of his mother affected them all. Even two decades later Russell struggles to move on and Logan, seems to reject the remainder of his family in pursuit of his own profession. From Logan’s seemingly apathetic attitude towards family to his father’s pedestrian existence, we can see the spectrum upon which Drew has slid towards his own ruin. His antisocial behaviour and excesses are rationalised through Russell’s advice and rejection of his Logan’s success.

When Russell is diagnosed with a terminal dose of cancer, Drew indulges his excesses even more, including Kara. His undefined relationship with her becomes like a drug until he meets Sierra, the psychoanalytical stranger looking for a ‘real’ conversation. She challenges Drew, bringing him to question his world view, and convincing him to condiernthe possibility of taking responsibility for his own life.

The Fifteenth of June is, for the most part, a dark story centring on the importance of what Drew call special moments, on finding one’s own truth. Jones does a great job of keeping the story from drifting too far down the philosophical path, and balancing a generally dislikeable character with enough emotive situations that the reader is still sympathetic towards him. In a way, we’re like Logan; we may not like Drew, and we definitely aren’t meant to like his decisions, but we still care. It’s not perfect by any means, with a couple of characters still needing some fleshing out, and the ending seemed a little rushed, but they are minor issues in an otherwise impressive first book.

Overall, Jones has a couple of flaws in this story, but all this shows is that he is yet to hit his best writing. The issues are likely only noticeable to the highly critical reader and the strengths far outweigh them. The way Jones simplifies complex issues by reducing them to Drew’s perspective makes it easier for the reader to follow and understand without a glut of filler text or the confusion of multiple points of view. We see what Drew sees, we understand what he understands, and as an outside party, we see his flaws.

As far as stars go, I give it four. It is not perfect. But that said, for a debut novel on complex issues, it leaves me wanting more from Jones. For an action/adventure fan, this does enough to ensure I am invested in Drew’s challenges and leaves me excited to see what this author publishes next.

 The Fifteenth of June 

By Brent Jones

Twenty-eight-year-old Drew Thomson is haunted by a troubled past. After struggling for years with alcoholism and antisocial behavior, he ends a stable relationship with his girlfriend and finds himself without a home, job, or purpose.

Just as he learns that his father is terminally ill, he meets a stranger who offers him a flicker of hope for a better future. But is he ready to bury the past?

Rich with dark humor and a keen insight into the human condition, this debut fictional release from author Brent Jones delves into life’s most pressing trials—destructive relationships, love, loss, and pursuing happiness.

About the Author

An aspiring novelist, Nathan is a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. With a bunch of qualifications in things that really don't bother most people, his day job is as an insurance investigator. It took him twelve years to realise he preferred writing, critiquing and reviewing novels than being in the military.