Trey's Road Adventure

Bruce Von Stiers

Trey Barlow is a teenager who may be going crazy. But if he's not, then Trey has a supernatural being chasing after him.

That is the foundation for the new novel, Break. It was written by Ken Bagnis. The novel was published by Ruets Publications.

It seems that Bagnis was once a musical artist with the rock band Pretty Vacant. He decided on a different career path, becoming a psychotherapist. Somewhere along the way, Bagnis became an author of young adult fiction. And not just any YA fiction. Deeply rooted in rock music and the complexity of mental illness, Bagnis' debut novel, Mind Riot, was acclaimed by both readers and critics. Now Bagnis has moved things in a slightly different direction in this new novel.

When the book begins, Trey finds himself in a psychiatric hospital for youth. He is only vaguely aware of how he got there. He's not too sure what happened. But Trey is sure that there is a supernatural entity who he calls Howling Jack that is after him.

Strange things, and people, seem to insert themselves into Trey's existence at the hospital. There's this other patient who keeps coming up with ridiculous names for Trey. And then Trey meets Pearl. She seems exotic and out there at the same time. And she seems to know about Howling Jack. Pearl helps Trey escape the hospital and then they begin a great adventure. Or so it seems.

Pearl convinces Trey that they need to leave Los Angeles and get to El Paso. It seems that Pearl's grandmother lives there and that she is some kind of spiritualist. The grandmother might be able to help Trey with his Howling Jack problem.

Things get sideways when they steal a car and inadvertently kidnap a little girl named Millie. As the story progresses, there are car chases, holes shot into car roofs, a sheep riding contest and never enough snacks to go around. And even as Pearl and Trey have a closet full of emotional and psychological baggage, Mille brings more than her fair share.

When I first started reading the novel, I wasn't too sure what to expect. Was this going to be a supernatural horror story? It sure seemed to be heading that direction at first. But the further I read, I found that this was more of a story of three psychologically scarred young people who have lost their way. And by trying to help each other, they form a bizarre but formidable bond.

One interesting plot element involves Millie's grandmother in Tucson who places potatoes on telephone poles. That made me think of a documentary film I recently reviewed about an L.A. area artist who places art made from trash on telephone poles.

Even though Break was geared towards young adult readers, older adults might enjoy it too. I did. As I waited for Howling Jack to make an appearance in the novel, I became engrossed in how each of the three young people were helplessly flawed. With each incident that came their way, I learned more about the characters. And how they pulled apart and came together as the story went along. Could they save themselves while saving the others seemed to be the question that I kept thinking of while reading the novel.

Break is as entertaining as it is thought provoking. The car chases, bullet holes, sheep riding and lack of snacks all make for interesting plot elements. But at its core, the novel is about damaged young people teetering near the edge who help each other the way no one else could have.

Break is out now and can be found at major book outlets.

If you'd like to know more about Break or it's author, Ken Bagnis, visit

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© 2022 Bruce E Von Stiers