5.0 4
by Michael Cadnum

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When two teenage brothers bungle a bank robbery, their attempt to hide the evidence is witnessed—aurally—by Terrence, a legally blind neighbor. Terrence tells his girlfriend, Nina, and her brother, who then disappears with a handgun. Nina is afraid of what he might do to the brothers. But she also has every reason to fear what the brothers will do to

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When two teenage brothers bungle a bank robbery, their attempt to hide the evidence is witnessed—aurally—by Terrence, a legally blind neighbor. Terrence tells his girlfriend, Nina, and her brother, who then disappears with a handgun. Nina is afraid of what he might do to the brothers. But she also has every reason to fear what the brothers will do to Terrence.

Flash ingeniously interweaves the stories of two who are hellbent on a destructive path, two who stand in their way, and one whose actions may be the spark to set the whole thing off.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Money is the main motivator in Cadnum's (Peril on the Sea) uneven crime drama. Siblings Bruce and Milton Borchard are looking to better their fortunes through bank robbery, while neighbor Nina Atwood's college plans are in jeopardy due to her father's financial difficulties. Her brother, Carraway, recovering from grievous wounds suffered while serving in Iraq, needs a lawyer to fast-track a medical discharge, and her nearly blind boyfriend, Terrence, may have a chance at improving his eyesight through expensive operations. After the Borchards pull off a bumbling robbery, they encounter Terrence, the only witness to their crimes, who tells the Atwoods what he knows. As Bruce and Milton plan to eliminate this loose end, Carraway plots ways to get his hands on the reward money, setting the stage for a violent confrontation. Though Cadnum works in some powerful, resonant lines, the narrative's innate tension is lessened by a heavy reliance on authorial omniscience, an excess of unfulfilled plot lines, and an ending that slams to a halt. Readers investing in these characters may be disappointed by the lack of resolution. Ages 12-up. (July)
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
On a sunny day in California, brothers Milton and Bruce, in need of money, set out to rob a bank. They are eighteen and sixteen years old, respectively. They manage to steal a car and get away with the loot, but everything goes wrong when the money explodes. Covered in green dye and bits of currency, the two head home to bury the evidence, but they're overheard by their nearly-blind teenage neighbor, Terrence, who happens to be on a nearby hillside recording bird sounds. Terrence tells his photographer girlfriend, Nina, about what he heard, and she worries, with reason, that the brothers will try to hunt him down. Nina is also worried about her brother, Carraway, an injured military policeman who has abruptly returned from Iraq. There are several subplots (perhaps too many) swirling around these five young characters, but the suspense and Cadnum's fine writing keep the reader engaged, and the novel builds to an exciting conclusion. The morality, or lack of morality, of the brothers—Milton the planner, Bruce the menacing thug—is especially fascinating. According to the book jacket, the tale was inspired by a real bank robbery Cadnum witnessed. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
VOYA - Hillary Crew
On a fateful day in Albany, California, teenage brothers Milton and Bruce Borchard rob a bank; Nina's brother, Carraway, returns from a military hospital after being wounded in Iraq; and Terrence, Nina's boyfriend, is a witness as the Borchards dig a hole on their property. By evening, all five young people are involved in a life-and-death situation in which Nina and Terrence are in danger of being shot by an angry, out-of-control Bruce. Carraway, meanwhile, is recovering the bank money on the Borchard property under the raised bat of Louella Borchard, who wishes to protect her sons. Cadnum presents a dysfunctional family in which a mother and her sons seem to have lost all sense of right and wrong so that even murder does not seem a serious undertaking. Emphasis is placed on the love/hate relationship between Milton and his younger brother. In a melodramatic scene, Milton tries to prevent Bruce from committing the murder they have both planned by shooting him in the leg, and then entertains the idea of killing him. Cadnum touches on the effects of war on young men through his portrayal of Carraway and his former friend Sergeant Palmer. Palmer wishes to place blame for his murder of detainees in Iraq on Carraway but attempts suicide when Carraway won't cover for him. The confused (and confusing) moral conduct of the Borchards and Palmer is offset by the courage of Nina and the principled thinking of Terrence, with whom the novel ends very abruptly. Reviewer: Hillary Crew
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Milton, 18, and his brother Bruce, 16, are planning a bank robbery. Their long-suffering mom is trying to get a pension deal, and their alcoholic dad was killed when the sugar plant blew up. They need money now, but Milton has concerns about Bruce, who may have mental problems and seems to have some pretty scary ideas about when violence is justified. Down the street live Nina, a talented photographer; her brother, Carraway, who has just returned from Iraq with a serious injury; and their dad, who has financial woes. Everyone in this book has troubles and faces moral dilemmas. Nina's boyfriend is almost legally blind, and he gets caught up in a frightening situation as a witness to the robbery, as do Nina and her brother. Carraway also needs money for a lawyer to get out of having to go back to active duty; his mental state and possibility for violence add to the tension. The fear instilled in the witnesses by the brothers is clever and nail-bitingly thrilling; the personal stories are real and compelling; the characters are three-dimensional and beautifully drawn; and the situation will have readers asking, "What would I do?" over and over again. Teens will love this first-rate novel.—Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO
Kirkus Reviews
After a bungled bank robbery, Milton and Bruce Borchard drive off in a stolen Ford Taurus. Their ill-gotten money blows up, covering them in green smoke and scraps of currency, and when they hide the evidence, they are seen or, at least, heard. Now that they have buried the evidence, will they also have to bury the witness? In a return to contemporary novels, Cadnum (Peril on the Sea, 2009, etc.) weaves five voices into an intelligently scripted drama suffused with tension. The Borchard brothers would be comic if they weren't so deadly. Carraway Atwood is a different person since he's returned from Iraq, but is he as dangerous as his sister Nina fears? Will "practically legally blind" Terrence be the one to see things for what they are? Superb writing, with many a fetching turn of phrase and meticulous care given to plotting and characterization, makes this an outstanding commentary on our times-"hardly a courtly era," Milton thinks-and the unpredictable resolution that brings the cast to the end leaves room for reflection on motivation and character in hard times. (Thriller. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


“When will you show them the gun?” asked Milton. He and his brother were sitting in lawn chairs in back of the house.

The morning clouds were burning off, and the sunlight was bright beyond the shadow of the house. San Francisco Bay Area summers were usually like this—half hot, half cold—and the East Bay was enjoying a characteristically dry season.

“Let me hear you say it,” Milton insisted.

Sometimes he wanted to hit Bruce over the head. Bruce would take a good deal of hitting—he had a large, round head with close-cropped hair and he smiled a lot. The smile did not mean that he was happy. It meant he was stronger than most people, and that he intended to take advantage of it.

Milton Borchard was eighteen and had graduated from Albany High School earlier that summer. Bruce was sixteen and had dropped out of the same school. Milton found his younger brother to be a lot of responsibility, and sometimes he wished he could think of a way of getting rid of him.

At last Bruce complied and said, “I’ll show her the gun after this.”

He took a paper out of his inner pocket and displayed the note, which had been folded and refolded until it was limp, the large words in red Magic Marker. THIS IS A ROBBERY. He folded it again and put the paper back inside his leather sport coat, stylish and good-looking, except for the dark stain along the left cuff.

“Don’t take the first bag of money they give you,” Milton cautioned.

Bruce nodded. He was trying to be patient, and even gave Milton one of his smiles, looking every inch the sort of person who got things done.

Bruce had worked a few nonunion construction jobs until earlier in the summer, when the local developer ran out of funds, and you could still see the line of pale skin on his forehead where the hard hat had kept off the sun. He had dropped out of school to make money. He had failed.

Just then Mom was in the doorway, trying to hear what they were talking about. Her bathrobe had her name stitched across the left breast: LOUELLA. As though her sons might mistake the baggy, worn garment for one of their own.

Milton lifted his finger and Bruce kept his mouth shut.

Mom looked and listened, and you could see her wondering what the hell her two boys were about to get into. Milton tried out his own smile: Just the two of us talking.

Mom shuffled back into the darkness of the interior, a big woman looking even bigger in pink terry cloth. She did jigsaw puzzles of famous artworks in her spare time, which she didn’t have much of. She worked with a committee trying to win increased pensions for sugar refinery employees and their families.

Louella Borchard had emphysema and swollen feet, but she had worked as a dispatcher for the Port of Oakland for twenty years. She had the demeanor and mental habits of a person who was accustomed to ordering forklifts to berth ninety-eight and making sure they got there. One of Milton’s first memories of his mother was her cursing at a cable TV installation crew for stepping on her geraniums, and the men in white hard hats apologizing, scared of her.

From then on, Milton had the impression that his mother would not hesitate to tear the head off anyone who crossed her. Just like Bruce.

Mom had survived on her own in recent years. Her own mother had drowned in the Russian River during a flood, when Milton was five years old. Her father had been killed in Sparks, Nevada, in a fight with someone trying to break into his car. Milton thought that luck had long ago abandoned his mother, and he felt sorry for her.

She was in bad health, and she needed cash. Milton was determined to see that she would get it.

“Just don’t take the first bag of money they give you,” Milton repeated, hating himself for nagging his brother, but someone had to make the plans. He had the feeling that if you could read Bruce’s mind you would sense a hot current of self-assurance accompanied by nothing. No thoughts, no inner dialogue—just white-hot nothing.

“Because they’ll sneak a dye bomb into it and the cash will blow up on us,” Milton continued, “and we’ll be two dyed clowns with a bunch of useless money.”

The bank would open at nine-thirty, and Milton calculated that the bank employees might take a few minutes to get their cashboxes full of currency, nice rows of twenties and fifties. It was ten minutes after nine now.

In maybe half an hour he and Bruce would be bank robbers.

Excerpted from Flash by Michael Cadnum.

Copyright © 2010 by Michael Cadnum.

Published in 2010 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Flash 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love this book! Totally reccomend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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