(Original review posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/36104.html)Why I Read It:
I read Rosoff's award-winning How I Live Now a few years ago and while I didn't fall head-over--heels in love with it, I still LIKED it and have been curious to check out her other works. This went on sale at work for $2 for the hardcover (!!!) AND I get 30% off on top of that so I couldn't resist picking this title up. It's languished in my TBR for too long, so I finally picked up and gave it a go. This review has no spoilers, so if that's something that bothers you, fear not.
The first thing that really struck me about this book is the writing; it's absolutely gorgeous and very lush. Rosoff was smart as well in that she makes it clear from the beginning that the narrator of the story is very old (like over a hundred or something) and is reflecting on this story that he's telling us, so it makes perfect sense that he's voice sounds so mature. You may have noticed that I tagged this book as 'literary fiction', and while I'm usually uncomfortable using that term (what makes fiction LITERARY anyway?) it felt appropriate here; the prose really does elevate it to another plain that YA rarely treads (actually, most people see YA and literary fiction as diametrically opposed -- I beg to differ) and I actually wouldn't be at all surprised to find this book in the General Fiction (AKA the 'Adult Section') of stores.
Thank God for the beautiful writing though, because this book was sort of dull. It's very, VERY character-centric with a huge focus on the narrator's thoughts and feelings (as it's from his point of view) and Finn. The novel mostly follows these two as the narrator keeps sneaking out of his boarding school to have clandestine visits with Finn whom he feels attracted to, the reasons for which are ambiguous: is it because he wants to live like Finn, away from boarding school and on his own? or are they romantic feelings? It's never explicitly stated and I'm perfectly fine with that, but not a whole lot else happens throughout the novel.
With all this focus on the two main characters though, it does lend them to be very fleshed out and complex. Finn was always a mystery to me though. Being raised by just your grandmother in a shack by the sea would make you an odd duck I suppose, but I could seriously never figure him out (which I suppose is the point) which made it hard to connect with him on any level. The magnetism that the narrator feels for Finn was complex and I liked how Rosoff brought attention to that, as I mentioned above. Reading about that attraction was compelling in a way, though I can see it not being to everyone's taste.
This being told from a future version of the narrator, you know he's telling the story for a reason and that some kind of cataclysmic event is going to happen that's going to unravel everything. I've read some reviews where people have claimed that they saw the twist coming from a mile away, but this was definitely not the case for me; it felt like it came totally from left-field. It was congruous with everything else that had happened in the novel though, so I'm not saying it was contrived either, but it did feel like a slap in the face. I'm not going to say much more because I really don't want to spoil it, but I was a little disappointed with how it was handled -- it ended up being such a BIG subject but it felt like it was tacked on at the end and not really explored (or if it was, it was too subtle for me to really notice and grasp.) I will give it that it's an ending I won't soon forget though.Final Verdict:
This is another case of LIKE and not LOVE for me, but I still really want to try another one of Rosoff's work (especially There Is No Dog) to really solidify my opinion on her. The two books I've read by her are very nuanced, beautifully written, and acknowledge the complexities of feelings and relationships and I like that, but there's also not a whole lot that HAPPENS in her books, which bores me a little bit. However she's a very gifted writer and her beautiful prose keeps my eyes glued to the page and wanting more, so she makes up for the lack of Things Happening with that. I also always have a sense that I'm Missing Something, which could be what's keeping me from loving these books. Either way, I recommend her with reservations, because I see people (and know people) who love her work, but I can just as easily see this not being everyone's cup of tea.