"A rich narrative and characters make for a stunning read for a wide audience."



"Blends the star-crossed love story of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS with the rousing finale of the best ROCKY movies . . . Venturini weaves a tale about love and hope just waiting to be discovered within the dark, raw realities of modern teenage life.”

Dan Loflin

Screenwriter, SUPERNATURAL


"No one captures small-town America with as much empathy, humor and complexity as Fred Venturini. Readers will discover a kid with the valor needed to fight through a daily life of disappointment and suffering, a novel with powerful voices of grief told through the eyes of a young man filled, against all odds, with hope."

Michael Nye


 I wrote an essay about my burn scars and a flurry of accidents and injuries in my teens, tying them all into the idea that they were critical to my identity.

I get asked quite often “If you could do it all over again, would you avoid being burned?” Some people seem to think that dodging that level of pain and injury is an automatic, but for me it’s automatic in the other direction—there is no other boy that exists except the one who walked into that barn and got burned that day. 

I figured the essay may be a useful promotional tool for my last novel. While many outlets aren’t enthusiastic bout promoting novels or novelists, they love a good human interest story. I got caught up in the excitement of the book’s release and forgot all about the essay, which went unpublished. 

Months later, I asked my literary agent if he ever did anything with the essay—he didn’t submit it and suggested I expand the idea into a full-blown novel. 

I had zero interest in a memoir, but after some discussion, I landed upon a powerful decision that Wilder makes in the novel—one I won’t spoil here—that unlocked the story as a fictional narrative. 

The two personal lynchpins I started with were that Wilder would be a burn survivor and that he would eventually endure a tragic accident that I experienced in real life. That’s it. I left all the other pages blank and built the most dramatic story I could out of those two events. 

Without going through page-by-page and spoiling everything, I can tell you that fifteen percent or less of the book is directly related to my personal experience. I handed Wilder my burn scars, the procedures required to fix the scar tissue, and one of the central events in the middle of the book I won’t spoil here. 

The characters, I can assure you, are not based on anyone in particular. They are often amalgams of people I knew, with traits and situations conveniently modified for dramatic effect. 

Anyone who knows me and reads this may feel like the percentage is far higher, if only because of the way my imagination is filtered through my experience—if I want to create a high school gym, for example, I filter through the dozens of gyms I played in as a kid, pick one, and then shift things around to where I need them: the hoops, the bleachers, the doors. 

To me, this is a product of a writer’s unique experience, voice, and process—this is not an indicator that the book is nonfiction, but it does make for a fun Easter Egg hunt for anyone who grew up with me.