BY THE BOOK

A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON HOW TO REVIEW A NOVEL

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BY THE BOOK

Junior Luke Condie is rarely seen without a book in his hands and has recently started reviewing books for the Prowl.

Junior Luke Condie is rarely seen without a book in his hands and has recently started reviewing books for the Prowl.

Abby Landwehr

Junior Luke Condie is rarely seen without a book in his hands and has recently started reviewing books for the Prowl.

Abby Landwehr

Abby Landwehr

Junior Luke Condie is rarely seen without a book in his hands and has recently started reviewing books for the Prowl.

ADVISER’S NOTE: The Prowl staff is pleased to introduce Powell High School junior Luke Condie as our guest reviewer. Luke volunteered to provide readers with a variation of reviews for the balance of the school year.

 

Synopsis:

Girl goes to a town in Maine and tries to find an actual shipwreck in the metaphorical shipwreck of her life. Realizes the real treasure was the relationships she made and fixed along the way.

Plot: 9/10

Wow, this book was heavy. A third person prologue gives the reader the impression of an “average” family right up until the attempted suicide of the main character’s brother. From that point on, the book follows the story through the MC’s POV, with a couple more 3P narratives and the occasional flashback supporting the story. The MC’s thoughts, a genealogical mystery involving a shipwreck, the search for said shipwreck, the circumstances of the tale, and the backstories of the various characters weave together to create a character-driven narrative that keeps the reader engaged and wanting more. To top it all off, the book doesn’t even wrap everything up, leaving what happens next very much open to interpretation.

Characters: 9/10

Remember what I said about the story being “character-driven?” Well, it’s a good thing, because the characters of this book are, in a word, amazing. They feel real; they’re relatable, clever, accurate… I could go on for a while.

Violet: This girl is bisexual on a Halsey level. She’s divided between her wild side (which gave her a crazy year), her become-invisible side, her wow-my-life-is-crap-and-my-family-is-broken side, and her HOLY-FRICK-I-HAVE-A-CRUSH side. Relatable on a basic level but still a unique character.

Liv: Not a spoiler, because it’s in the outside cover: she is the object of Vi’s affection, but proclaims herself to be straight. A truth-seeking history geek with a love of hats and cigarettes. Wish that I knew her; she’s that cool.

Orion: Poor Orion. He’s a marine-biology-geek version of Mako. Nice guy, though. He plays the trumpet and built a boat. Humble, too.

Felix and Mariah: Not one-dimensional, but they mostly exist to forward the plot while still being a big part of the friend group. Felix is funny and Mariah is… nice? Okay, she’s a pretty minor character.

Violet’s family: Toby, a caring uncle who’s good at baking but not puzzles. Her parents, who are… complicated. Her brother, Sam, who’s battling depression.

Content: 7/10

I have only one complaint about this book: it’s like the author doesn’t know that it’s a dang good book and tries to engage her readers with excessive cursing and… well, you saw the 15+ rating. I get the need for realism, so I’ll excuse the marijuana, some of the cursing, the teen drinking (to a degree), and even Liv’s smoking (she’s trying to quit by the end). But the author doesn’t seem to know that the occasional F-word is a lot more realistic than the inordinate amount she sprinkles into her writing. I may be wrong, but most people I know don’t curse that much. As for the rated-R scene two-thirds of the way through… gratuitous fan service much? The rest of the book’s content is pretty realistic, though, so it passes with a C.

Mood /Tone: 8/10

This book does not hesitate to mess with your emotions. For much of the book, there is a melancholy undertone, though this lightens considerably after page 272.

Diversity: 8/10

As previously mentioned, our main character is bisexual, and there is one other homosexual character who will go unnamed in my quest to hold off on major spoilers. Besides that, the book isn’t very diverse, with only character who (I think) is non-Caucasian, but considering the small town setting and close-knit cast, this is understandable.

Conclusion: 9.2/10

Considering it’s her debut book, Julia Drake does a dang good job. She avoids irritatingly inaccurate traits often seen in YA books, with relatable characters and circumstance, realistic humor and dialogue, and LGBT+ representation that, frankly, every genre needs more of. Read if you enjoy genealogy, a bit of mystery, relatability, and/or the literary equivalent of a Halsey song, since that’s basically what this book is. Don’t read if you haven’t got used to how often teenagers curse, or don’t like Halsey.

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