Will doesn’t know if he has a future. His mom died when he was a boy and his father is a raging bigot that wants to keep England for the English. To make matter worse at night he has horrible dreams of death and carnage. Will just wants to be left alone and ignored. Unfortunately wherever he goes he is watched by strangers, all with the same sad, doomed eyes. No one believes him, and he isn’t sure what he believes himself, but then they make contact. They are the Returners, immortal souls that exist to witness the great atrocities of humanity, only to die horribly and be reborn just in time for new horrors. Will says he isn’t one of them, but how do they know about his nightmares of past genocides? As he runs from them and starts to question his reality he starts remembering things he had blacked out in his own life. And when he learns his destiny as a Returner is different than those who follow them he decides he will reject his fate, but can anyone escape fate? Or is history really doomed to repeat itself forever?
This is a dark and thrilling ride into the mind of a troubled teen with some pretty special problems. What works best about the story though is that many of Will’s problems are very real. His mother died in front of him at a young age, his bouts of rage scare and excite him, and his father’s bigotry repels him but also is somehow appealing. These are all things that happen in the world every day. It shows that history’s monsters and madmen were once just confused spiteful young men and women. It is a much more compelling view of how evil is born than most novels usually take. The novel is set only 7 years in the future in England and the idea that a recession in 2009 could lead to a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment is chillingly realistic. This is a scary and tense read that looks at how evil is formed and what can be done (if anything) to prevent it.