Full disclosure: I received an e-book ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This was the first time I’ve ever been asked to do this and hopefully not the last.
First, I want to start with the bad. I assume the PDF I received is the same one that is now available for purchase (the book came out on July 5th). With this assumption in mind, there were a lot of things that took me out of the novel and unfortunately led to a lower score for my review. There were a few sentence fragments, tense changes, dropped words, spelling mistakes, and repeated words in sentences which didn’t quite add up, such as, “I have technically have …”. Also, seeing “sole mate” instead of “soulmate”, can give the more literal reader a different sense of what’s happening.
I found the novel to be overly descriptive, which for some people might be what the want, but for me it sometimes felt like I was watching TV with described video. For example, “Once it loads, she types in guns of brixton arcade fire, hits enter, searches and then double clicks on the video she wishes to show me. Five seconds into an advertisement, she clicks the Skip Ad button.” Another example would be, “I listen with my ear buds behind my tragus’ …”. Aside from the plural form of tragus actually being tragi, the issue I had here is that this gave the novel the feeling of being written to meet a specific word count and therefore there was a lot of fat that could’ve been trimmed. My first example here could easily have said, “She found a video of the cover and played it for me,” or something to that effect. Another example of being overly descriptive is saying, “the just over three minute song”, instead of just, “the song”. Again, it felt like reading a high school essay where a student was trying to reach the word count by throwing in extra descriptors.
Another issue I had was the feeling of unnecessary word choice. Sometimes it seemed that bigger words were used, maybe to try and make the character seem more intelligent, when they didn’t need to be. For example, “I raise up my right hand, the thick dried red keeping bits of bone fragments, epidermis and hair stuck in place.”I’m not quite sure why epidermis was used instead of skin as it’s very rare, in my opinion, to hear somebody refer to their skin as epidermis. Another example, which I kept encountering, was the use of the word libation instead of drink. For example,”I gulp back more of my libation…”. Multiple times in the novel, the character refers to his drink as his libation, and I’m not sure why. I get the feeling that perhaps a less educated reader may feel a bit lost reading this novel, and I even felt a bit of a struggle to keep going after encountering so many writing mistakes that the English teacher in me wanted to correct.
My last real issue with the novel is that I didn’t see a purpose in multiple POVs. There were 4 or 5 chapters not told from Retter’s perspective and I didn’t feel that they added anything to the story that couldn’t be done from Retter’s perspective. Also, I felt the novel was a chapter too long but that’s just my opinion. In talking about the differed character perspectives, Brixton’s first POV narration seemed off. When you’re thinking, you don’t think, “I’ll grab the …The hell are those things called…”, you just grab it. Also, it seemed more like a stream of thought instead of a narration of what was happening.
The novel wasn’t all bad though. If you can make it through all those (mostly) non-story-related issues there is quite a lot to enjoy.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Retter and Brixton. I felt that the relationship was portrayed in a way that made it seem very real. The characters were sweet to each other and seemed to find a safe place in each other’s company. The fact that they enjoyed just being in each other’s company on Brixton’s couch spoke to me because it’s something I enjoy with my own girlfriend, and it gives the couple and their relationship a sense of not being overly romanticized.
The novel had great musical references. As my musical tastes differ all the time depending on mood and other factors, I found myself listening more to Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, The Tragically Hip, The Dropkick Murphys, and some ska bands that I can’t quite remember whether they were named in the novel or not. It was cool to have moments where the characters react so strongly to a song that you know and have also reacted to.
I wasn’t quite sure where the story was headed for a majority of the novel. There were a few really exciting scenes in the middle which I enjoyed reading and I thought were really well done. What I think of as the climax of the novel, about 3/4 into the story, really caught me off-guard. I literally had a jaw-dropping moment and let out an audible, “whoa”.
My final thoughts are that it was a decent debut novel. I’ve seen the author mention the novel eventually coming to paperback and really, if it goes through the proofreading process again before then, it would get a higher rating from me. I still enjoyed the story, as well as other other elements of the novel, and it dealt with some heavy issues that I don’t normally encounter in novels, so kudos to D.R. Hedge for tackling them.