What is it about our childhood best friends that stays with us forever?  Why are they so ingrained upon our memories?  While it is true that some of us manage to stay intimately connected with our best childhood buddies throughout our lives… many of us do not.  The trials and complexities of life get in the way and we slowly begin to drift apart.  However, we never truly forget them as they are emblazoned in our thoughts with each passing day.  There is just something about childhood friendships which is everlasting.  Partners in the life journey from innocence and wonder, to maturity and stark reality.  In his book, The Secret Life: The Bond, author Shay Mills presents just such a scenario.  A heart-rending, yet thoroughly inspirational story about the deep and unbreakable bond of friendship amidst the momentous challenges embodied within the coming of age journey.

Essentially, the story revolves around the posthumous retelling of the protagonist’s (Aaron) life.  Aaron has recently passed away and has left behind a series of personal journals for his old military friend, William, to read in order to better understand him.  He will need this information to deliver Aaron’s eulogy.  As William settles down to read the journals, a gateway is opened up into Aaron’s life which he could never have predicted.  The reader is transported back in time and arrives in the 1970’s.  We are soon treated to a heartwarming and uplifting recollection of Aaron growing up with his group of best friends.  The ups and downs, camaraderie, and pure loyalty which exists between them is entirely moving.  However, there is a distinct dark side to Aaron’s life, and it comes in the form of an abusive family and Stepfather named Doyle.  Unbeknownst to the others, Aaron suffers from daily physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the deviant.  His very life is on the line with each passing day.  Will the mental anguish and physical turmoil just simply be too much for a child to possibly endure?  Or will Aaron rise up in a way which nobody could have ever predicted?

To say that I was completely captivated by this story would be a gross understatement.  The plot of the novel flows seamlessly as we are treated to a plethora of funny, sad, and outrageous story events.  The carefree and steadfast antics of Aaron and his childhood buddies are shrewdly juxtaposed with his home life which is filled with horrific abuse.  This is a powerful method which the author very successfully utilizes to evoke powerful emotions within the reader.  Through Aaron’s eyes we are able to witness the brutal loss of innocence, and it enrages us all.  At the same time, the reader is also able to join Aaron and his buddies on many of their outlandish adventures.  We feel as if we are right there ourselves and experience the love, devotion and loyalty amongst the friends.  Very clever writing indeed!

While the author more than capably uses his ample writing skills to support a captivating plot, this is further backed up by a host of believable and memorable characters.  They are described so well that they actually transported me back in time.  I have met these people before!  In truth, we all have, and that is what makes them so very special.  From the malevolent Doyle, loyal Connor, to the beautiful and nurturing Khrystyne.  They all ring a bell for us.  We even get to know the narrator William much better as the story progresses.  Like Aaron, we get a feeling that there is much more about him left to tell.  I suspect we may find out what that is in the other titles of the series.

Without a doubt, this is a beautifully told story which will have the reader experience the full gamut of emotions.  Also, in the midst of the captivating storytelling, the prominent message of bringing awareness to child abuse is crystal clear.  Bravo on all counts!

5 out of 5 Touching Stars for this one!