This week’s titles include my most and least favourite of the longlisted books that I’ve read so far. I start with the good, nay, the brilliant, first.
I read and reviewed Wild Boy last year, and it was the best childrens’ book of the year for me. It had that mix of adventure and excitement with a touch of magic and the macabre that I found so appealing as a young reader, and continue to love now. My full review can be found here. My eldest niece wants to read Wild Boy too, so I’ll add her thoughts once she’s had a chance to read it.
Obviously Wild Boy gets a great big double thumbs up from me.
Now it’s time to move onto a book that did not work for me at all.
This is going to be tough for me because usually if I don’t like a book I stay quiet about it, but as I’ve committed to featuring the whole longlist I’m going to have to toughen up and get critical. But first, I have to start with the positive. I was intrigued by the concept, and I thought the first few chapters were really good. I enjoyed the Prologue, and thought the first paragraph set up an interesting situation. I particularly liked the description of this jaded character, focused but detached. A sense of mystery is created. The first chapter proper is good too. We meet Dylan as she recounts her disastrous day, one of those that starts bad and just keeps getting worse. Unfortunately, it’s about to get as bad as it can get for Dylan.
Possible Spoilers: avoid the next two paragraphs if you don’t want to know any more plot details. The boy Dylan meets, Tristan, is her ferryman – her guide to the ‘other side’, whatever that may be. It’s quickly apparent that Dylan is technically dead, but she hasn’t reached her final destination yet – so far so good. The problems I have are firstly that it rapidly becomes a ‘one true love’ story, with world-weary Tristan finding something in Dylan that jolts him out of his ennui. I’m not keen on the teenagers being paired off forever and ever as their only destiny trope. Dylan’s never even had a boyfriend before she meets Tristan, but she’s willing to risk eternal death to be with him. The final scenes made me think what an awful responsibility she now has to make him happy for the rest of their lives.
But, what really made me mad was a small section where Tristan is explaining why the screeching demons are so keen to grab Dylan’s soul as they travel the wasteland. It’s because she’s pure, and ‘pure souls are like a feast‘ to them. In case there was any doubt what pure refers to we’re told it’s not about being perfect but being a virgin. Seriously, I nearly stopped reading right there. This type of stuff bothers me enormously; I’m not comfortable with the idea that virginity = purity, because the real message there is that sex = impurity. No, I cannot get on-board with this ever. So, the combination of teenage girl meets ancient soul, only she can free him, plus negative female sexuality message left me cold. I had some more general issues with the way the wasteland operated, but they pale beside my major concerns.
Everyone can come back now – no more spoilers! Overall the story was not for me and I can’t recommend it. It’s not the writing that’s the problem, but that the story’s theme and messages don’t work for me. But, I have read some amazing reviews from readers that thought completely differently.
It looks like I’m in a minority this time! If you’ve read either please let me know what you think.