Mark M. Bello
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (07/2020)
“Betrayal High” is the latest book in the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series by Mark M. Bello. The series engages readers in current issues relevant to social justice in America. “Betrayal High” tackles bullying, school shootings, and the ongoing political debate around the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
Kevin Burns seeks justice and revenge as the result of relentless physical and emotional abuse by his school peers. His retribution leaves several students and one teacher dead, with numerous others critically injured. Kenny Tracey, a fellow schoolmate, is shot in the leg while trying to stop Kevin before he does any more harm. Did I mention, Kenny is trial lawyer Zachary Blake’s son? Zach handles the civil cases for the families of the victims – cases against Kevin’s family, the school system and a powerful gun manufacturer, Barrington Arms. Zach soon discovers foul play reaching the highest political offices of our country in an exciting courtroom drama you will not be able to put down once you start reading.
There are so many impressive things to say about “Betrayal High.” First, the storyline is compelling and heart-wrenching. There are no winners in this scenario, but a series of devastating circumstances leading many to their breaking points. Though a fictional tale, the harsh realities of life in this 21st century really hits readers with tough, thought-provoking, soul-searching questions. What do we do about the ever-increasing instances of bullying? How do we keep guns from getting into the hands of children? How many school shootings do we have to incur as a society before people in power do the right thing? What does the Second Amendment have to do with weapons of mass destruction? When are we going to hold gun manufacturers, the NRA, and politicians to task? Whichever side of the coin you are on with any of these issues, “Betrayal High” has “food for thought” to offer everyone, through its candid, brutally honest message. The writing is brilliant and leaves the reader thirsty for more. I got so worked up while reading I wanted to highlight just about every sentence to go back to and contemplate at a later date.
The characters are equally impactful. Their thoughts, actions, motivations – every character trait provides genuine, well-rounded development. With Kevin for example, you experience the full gamut of emotions. My heart ached for him when I learned the extent of the abuse he suffered, I experienced fear as he went on his shooting spree, was angry at him for taking matters into his own hands and finally, felt sorry for him as he faced the consequences of his actions. One of his quotes will stay with me for some time: “Prison provides me a safer environment than my community school ever did. How is this possible?” We have truly failed our children when they feel safer in prison than at home or at school.
Kenny Tracey is another character that leaves an inspirational imprint on readers. This young man is a humble hero and wants to get guns out of the hands of people like Kevin. He starts an organization of young first-time voters giving politicians the option of doing the right thing or be voted out of office in the next election. His determination and strength in the face of adversity provides hope for the future. He says, “We’re kids. We don’t have all the answers, but sometimes we feel like we’re the only adults in the room.” Touché, Kenny. Touché.
I loved everything about “Betrayal High” and highly recommend it to fans of legal and courtroom drama depicting current and relevant societal issues. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the Zachary Blake series by Mark M. Bello! Well done!