‘I’ve wondered, sometimes – can you still love someone if you find out they did something bad? Turns out, you don’t have a choice. You love them whatever. You love them forever.’
‘I’m going to be hit by a car in about four hours, but I don’t know that yet. The weird thing is, it’s not the car that’s going to kill me.’
The weird thing is, Shelby isn’t going to die at all. Not literally.
If that killer first sentence makes you want to read this book, don’t fall for it. It’s completely misleading.
Seventeen-year-old Shelby Jane Cooper has a very tough life.
She’s homeschooled, so every Friday she gets ice cream for lunch and a trip to the batting cages and her local library.
Her mother is too caring, stifling her with love. She doesn’t even have to walk the half a mile to the library – she gets a taxi directly there, every week.
But other than Friday, every day is the same: a monotonous routine that’s impossible to break. That being said, every Friday is the same too… So even though it’s something different, it’s still the same. Week in, week out.
Poor, poor Shelby.
Shelby’s mother Shaylene won’t consider letting her take her SATs or allowing her to apply for college – she’s too over-protective to let her out of her sight for long. Shelby yearns for adventure, even going so far as to fantasise about what it would be like if her mother wasn’t her mother.
Adventure arrives, but it’s in the wrong form.
Shelby gets hit by a car and is hospitalised with a fracture. Her mom has to show her ID to the receptionist, and within moments of Shelby being discharged they’re on the run. Shaylene claims that Shelby’s father threatened to kill her and she’s terrified of him tracking her down, but changes her story after Shelby saw them on a news broadcast, admitting that she’s Anya Maxwell, a murderer who’s been on the run for years, and that she killed Shelby’s father because he was abusing her.
Shelby doesn’t know what to believe.
When she was hit by the car she had a vision involving a coyote, which told her that there would be two lies, and then there would be the truth. It seems to Shelby that her entire life is a lie – she doesn’t even know who she is anymore – so what is she supposed to believe?
This book is a masterclass in missed potential. Nick Lake had a brilliant idea, but he didn’t come close to executing it successfully.
Shelby lives two lives: her life in our world, and another life in a world called the Dreaming. The Dreaming isn’t a dream, but it isn’t reality, but it is a version of reality because Shelby experiences it, and doesn’t that make it real? (There’s a lot of muddled rambling concerning the origins and physical existence of the Dreaming, and I didn’t understand a word of it).
In the Dreaming, Coyote – the same coyote that foretold her prophecy, who also masquerades as a librarian called Mark in our world – tells Shelby she needs to kill the Crone and rescue the Child. Shelby is amazed: she’s had a dream over and over since she was younger in which she needs to rescue a child! How did Mark know her deepest, most intimate thoughts?!
Surprisingly enough, it turns out that Shelby is the Child and the Crone is Shaylene. Shelby describes this as a ‘PLOT TWIST’ but I think this was the most predictable move in YA history. Yawn.
The story is disappointing, but the writing style is abysmal. For some reason all of the dialogue is either reported speech or in italics, but half of the time the italics are in the wrong place and the formatting is all screwy, which obscures the meaning. A 500 page novel with no speech marks is not the novel for me.
Reading this book felt like trudging through quicksand: it claims it’s going to be quick, but it slows you down to a snail’s pace. I had to keep rereading sections to understand what the hell is going on, particularly with the constant switching between reality and the Dreaming. The character’s voices aren’t strong, so half of the things could be said by either participant in the conversation – not helpful when you don’t have anything clearly marking where the speech begins.
Shelby uses 10,000,000 pieces of hyperbole, so much that I rolled my eyes until they felt out of my head, which then rolled round the earth and back into my skull just to allow me to roll them some more. It’s unnecessary, and it takes away all authenticity from her character. No teenage girl talks like that. Nick can write genuine representations of teenage girls – he did so in ‘Whisper To Me’, which I really enjoyed and was the reason I picked up this novel in the first place – but he’s not doing it in this instance.
The ending is fairly satisfactory, but, as I already mentioned, predictable. I’m just grateful that all of the ends got tied up so we don’t need to have a sequel.
Great concept, terrible execution. If you loved ‘Whisper To Me’, pass this one up. It’s not as good, and it’ll just leave you questioning why you liked Nick Lake’s writing style so much in the first place.
I’d been looking forward to reading more of his previous novels, but I’m not planning on doing that any longer.