Synopses & Reviews
There shouldn't be a Citrus County. Teenage romance should be difficult, but not this difficult. Boys like Toby should cause trouble but not this much. The moon should glow gently over children safe in their beds. Uncles in their rockers should be kind. Teachers should guide and inspire. Manatees should laze and palm trees sway and snakes keep to their shady spots under the azalea thickets. The air shouldn't smell like a swamp. The stars should twinkle. Shelby should be her own hero, the first hero of Citrus County. She should rescue her sister from underground, rescue Toby from his life. Her destiny should be a hero's destiny.
"Brandon (Arkansas) finds shards of redemption in the swampy backwaters of Florida in his funny and horrifying latest. When Shelby Register moves to Citrus County, Fla., with her single father and little sister, she's expecting "surfers instead of rednecks," but the precocious teen makes the best of it. Things get screwy when Toby, a neglected, loveless boy living with his abusive uncle, becomes her twisted love interest. Toby finds trouble far more elaborate than ordinary delinquency when he enacts a strange, cruel plot on the Register clan. Presiding over it all in his own confused state is Mr. Hibma, a young teacher draped in irony and disaffection who lectures on the evils of capitalism, avoids his colleagues, and wants to do good but isn't sure how. As the Register family's misery deepens, Shelby begins to test boundaries, Toby realizes that he can't reverse the effects of his "prank," and his and Shelby's braided fates hurtle toward either tragedy or a narrow miss. Brandon's dry wit, dark imagination, and surprisingly big heart combine to reveal a Florida that, despite (or because of) being more Ted Bundy than Disney World, is absolutely worth visiting." Publishers Weekly
"John Brandon's macabre novel Citrus County is at once touching, funny, and terrifying....Brandon is a master at creating greatly flawed, believable characters who jump off the page and into our memories. Brandon's debut novel Arkansas greatly impressed me....Citrus County is a worthy successor, a book that haunts as well as it entertains." Largehearted Boy
"Last night I stayed up late because I had to finish John Brandon's upcoming novel Citrus County....I was compelled! Gripped! Creeped out! I was nervous about what might happen to the various characters in their various states of peril!....Sometimes writers get all beautiful on you and forget to remind you to turn the pages. Not John Brandon! He does it all." Jack Pendarvis
"I finished the novel a true believer: that Citrus County is gorgeous and deserves to be read widely; and that John Brandon is a great young writer who can — and probably will — do just about anything." San Francisco Chronicle
is the story of a crime that tears apart middle school classmates Toby and Shelby. Toby is the criminal and Shelby is the victim, but Toby hasn't been caught. Actually, he and Shelby are dating. And their lives aren't torn apart in the sense that they become the center of a police investigation, or are ripped from their normal lives. They're torn apart because the original crime turns them into teenagers who live very comfortably with the worst incarnations of themselves." Janet Potter, Bookslut (read the entire Bookslut review)
Teenage romance is confusing even in the best of times — but it's even worse when you've also accidentally kidnapped your girlfriend's little sister. John Brandon follows his acclaimed Arkansas with this dark, yearning story of Citrus County — manatees and strip malls, pep rallies and crazy uncles, secret bunkers and whip-smart girls. All the swampy humidity of central Florida, all the blind hunger of first love, and all the endless futility of eighth grade.