Written by A.J. Braithwaite, this relatively short book is marketed for a young adult audience. I found the writing style geared perfectly for a middle grade audience. Unlike the average, modern young adult book, which leaves more to the imagination, the writing in this book is careful to spell out everything the reader should be understanding. As a result, it lacked voice; I wasn't experiencing what the characters were experiencing, I was reading what they were experiencing.
The writing felt proper and old-fashioned in places, with a nice, somewhat sanitized feel typical of older books, but with some edge in the form of swear words .Overall, I was reminded of a high school creative writing contest. The writing style wasn't bad and there is definitely an audience for it. I just think the audience it's meant for is much younger than the modern young adult set.
The story begins with Luke's experiences from summer holidays up to partway through his term at school, when he meets the runaway. Then the story backtracks to briefly describe the runaway's experiences up to the point where she meets Luke. The story then continues from there with both experiences. I was thrown off by the seemingly totally different story when the runaway's story started and wondered if this was actually a collection of two separate stories. I think introducing the runaway earlier and alternating her timeline with Luke's (as indicated by chapter headings) up until they meet would have solved that problem. The overall story was interesting, but some of the plot events seemed illogical and it became somewhat absurd at the end. The ending ties things up in a strangely perfect and extremely serendipitous way, which is something I'd expect more from a middle grade novel.
It's hard to rate the characters because I didn't get a real feel for them. The only characters I really felt like I "knew" to any extent were Luke, Pagan, Ned, and possibly Mr. Wilmot. Mr. Wilmot actually felt like he could be the most complex character in the book, as he was the only one who didn't feel completely straightforward.
It's difficult to gauge my reaction to this book. It has a nice middle-grade feel to it, the writing is generally clear and moves the story along, but it feels very bland because the characters and events are explained in such a way that I didn't get to experience them. I rate books according to their intended audience. If this book were for a middle grade audience, I'd likely give it 3 stars (the ending was still a little *too* much, and I'd want the swear words to go away). As it's meant for today's young adult market, I give it:
2.5 /5 stars Full review @ MotherLode http://gracekrispy.com
(review of free book)