I really enjoyed this book!
Sara Shepard’s' Pretty Little Liars' and The 'Lying Game' books have really soured me on the 'bag things happening to popular girls' genre. Her characters are unsympathetic brats; her books are poorly plotted so that she can drag the mystery out for a whole series and her narrator grating to listen to.
Todd Strasser, however, has done the same genre much, much better.
Somehow a man was able to write far less annoying teenage girls! While they were not exactly complex they weren't just stereotypes trying not to seem like stereotypes by having really specific Starbucks coffee preferences (urgh…a pet peeve of mine in teen literature)!
I also found parents, teachers, cops etc all normal/relatable unlike the caricatures used to create problems for the main character in so many other YA books.
As I said the lead wasn’t exactly complex, she just seemed normal and worked for the story but she also came through for herself, not having to rely on a cute boy which I love seeing.
Initially the book makes you feel a little clueless because so many points of view bombard you with little explain but that’s builds genuine intrigue for the reader AND it is rewarded as things slowly become clearer.
Chunks of mystery are not spelled out for readers either – yes, you’re treated as if you have half a brain and have to put bits and pieces from the various points of view together!
I also love how it had almost a slasher movie vibe with some chase/stalking scenes and they actually put me right on edge. Of course, I was walking to my car late at night through empty hospital grounds at the time…. Still I can honestly say the book gave me some chills.
The narrator is a problem. She’s pitched and squeaky and sounds so similar to the one that does Sara Shepard’s books I kept forgetting this wasn’t one of hers…you know, until the plot starting going somewhere and reminded me it couldn’t be!
Anyway, I’d definitely recommend this as a teen mystery and will check out the rest of Todd Strasser’s work!
VM was one of my fav shows and it set off an obsession I had a few years back with teen detective literature and YA mysteries. Unfortunately, I never found anything particularly good, let alone anything reaching VM brilliance.
Escape Theory wasn't a hard core mystery but the premise, set-up and style were really well crafted. Devon doesn't believe all around good guy Hutch killed himself by Oxy OD at their scenic boarding academy. She begins to investigate and put pieces together with the help of her role as peer counselor to those closest to Hutch - wealthy and popular kids she is not at all in with.
Clues and new pieces on information are doled out at a steady pace and I stayed interested. The mystery wasn't too hard to solve and you'll probably figure it out before the book, but it never gets boring or too obvious. The author manages to inject a seedy but not melodramatic underworld into the boarding school and while it never got quite as noir or dark as VM it never got clichéd
The real brilliance to this story are the characters. They are incredibly well drawn and felt very real. The relationships are authentic and character turns and depths are organic and sincere. It lets the teens be teens (not adult caricatures) while also not relying on standard high school clichés (jocks, nerds, cool, uncool).
At the same time though there is an ever present but subtle rich/poor divide particularly between Devon, a scholarship student, and the wealthy inner circle. The way this way played really reminded me of VM with the way it gave the school community texture that you always sensed could become serious tension with the right catalyst.
While I would have like Escape Theory to go a little more in depth, be a little be more mysterious and have a bigger bang to the conclusion/revelation Escape Theory was still a fantastic YA mystery and overall great book.
I highly recommend it and can't wait for more in the series. I will definitely be reading them!
Jellico started out painfully slowly with no sense of where the story is going. After an hour I put it down and didn’t pick it up for over a year. After three hours I was considering deleting it even though I have a rule about always finishing books. That first was just sucha chore, I thought it could be the first to go.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad or even badly told story; it was just seemed so murky and muddled. The story-within-a-story interludes were as yet unframed, the goals of Taylor (the lead) were still unknown and the initial set up (the ‘war’ between three groups of teens that live or study by the Jellico road) was confusing and, as such, uninteresting. I’m all for a story unfolding, for pieces of information deftly doled out at the right moments etc but the first third seemed like it belong to a different story or at least set up a completely different story.
The first three hours were about that ‘war’ but that is not what the book is about and event thought eh story provides more than one could-be ‘resolution’, the conflict is simply dropped when the real story got going.
The protracted set-up gave an opportunity to tease a few things and start setting up the real story but since I had no idea what the real story was, the tid-bits, flashback, allusions and interludes left me confused and bored.
Jellico road is essentially a story a story of two generations of friends who form/ed unbreakable bonds. It becomes about Taylors search for family, love and understanding. When it does – it is utterly fabulous. I just can’t help but think that if it were only framed like that from the beginning it would have been solid gold.
By the last third of the book, the interludes/flashbacks are breathtaking in their revelations and I got excited every time I heard the music that signalled the change (as opposed to considering fast-forwarding them in the first third).
I guess you just have to go with the book and trust where it will take you but it’s the second novel in a row that I feel did not frame the ultimate story early enough for me to be invested from the beginning. It’s also the second in a row I’ve picked back up a year after dumping it – not a coincidence.
All I can say is if you like powerful emotional dramas, family sagas or intergenerational searches for love, family and hope than the Jellico Road is a wonderful book so stick it out. The end was so utterly emotional I had to lock myself in the bathroom at work to finish it because I couldn’t leave it or sob at my desk.
I don’t know how international readers will take the Australian story and the Aussie narrator. I AM Australian so I found a lot of the stereotypes, characters and idioms accurate to the point of uncomfortable. Somehow though, I still found the narrator’s accent grating (I just kept wondering if that is what I sound like?!)
Overall, I strongly recommend Jellico Road and it is times like this I remember why I have my ‘always finish’ rule!
Say something about yourself!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Mr Zafon's prose is magical. There is a rhythm and meter to his work that captures my imagination, inspires it to new heights, then flings it free to fly along the story. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a tall tale, beautiful imagery, and a little magic. Jonathan Davis is an excellent narrator, he brings so much to the characters but doesn't overpower the beauty of the story.