The Bellwether Revivals – Benjamin Wood
This book was reviewed well, well enough that I became rather impatient in my waiting for it to be published in the United States. As my anticipation grew I started to realize I couldn’t possibly enjoy this book as much as I thought I was going to. But, I did. I was entirely riveted to this engaging story of arrogance and mysticism.
Oscar works at a retirement facility in Oxford, secretly wishing he was a part of the denizens of students clogging the city. He quietly gets by learning history, literature, and philosophy by borrowing books from a favorite patient until one day when he’s inexplicably drawn to a chapel by beautiful organ music and where he meets Iris Bellwether. Oscar finds himself being brought into her exclusive world of leisure populated by intellectuals and musicians, and lead by Eden Bellwether, Iris’ brilliant brother, who believes whole heartedly in his ability to heal through music. But as Oscar falls harder for Iris he suddenly has to wonder if it’s Eden’s narcissism that’s holding this group together. And what’s more, are his bizarre experiments dangerous?
This book starts out with dead bodies. We don’t know the circumstances and we don’t know the victims, save for one; Eden Bellwether. This device is obviously used to draw the read into the narrative, but I have to wonder if it’s necessary. To me it played out like the inevitable comparisons to Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’. But while Tartt’s novel was very much about a murder it wasn’t as if that event brought the book to a spectacular conclusion. In Wood’s novel we worked up to the deaths and knowing they were coming made them less shocking. Not that this ruined the novel, not at all. This was an amazingly atmospheric, moody tale that managed to not be quite scary but certainly gave me the creeps. Mental illness is clearly a large part of the plot, but it’s handled so delicately and intriguingly that the reader would probably be able to believe in magic as easily as reality. Proving rational people sometimes have doubt.
Oscar, Iris, and Eden are clearly the most deep characters. The novel is, by proxy, about Eden and Oscar’s tale revolves around Iris, but the ancillary characters were just as well done. Marcus, Yin, and Jane (the other members of the flock) weren’t given much to do but still somehow managed to resonate with me beyond the seat fillers that they really were. The parental Bellwethers were just enough cliche and just enough realism for them to be glossed over and recognized as who they are while not falling flat. But for me the two characters that really stood out were Oscar’s favorite patient, Dr. Paulsen, and his former lover, Herbert Cress, who is dying of a brain tumor, writing about his experience with hope (and faith healing, though he’s a skeptic), and takes healing sessions from Eden. They were not the main focus of this story but their history and present involvement with Oscar kept this tale sharp.
This was a character driven novel so characterization is obviously essential, but this also had plenty of action. It was a page turner while still managing to resonate. It was dark and sometimes disturbing, and fills the reader with a conflict of emotions. Just the way I like them.
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) – Cassandra Clare
(**** of five)
I didn’t know too much about this book before I started reading it. Which it probably a good thing. I have… not really a rule but more an inclination against stories that start out as fan fiction. It’s not that there aren’t some talented people writing fan fiction it’s just that’s it tends to be a little overwrought and extraneous. I understand that want to continue stories, especially that of minor characters, and I understand feeling a character to the extent that you feel the need to write them. But, I think it’s best left on the internet, even when you’ve changed the names and circumstances enough to not be called plagerism (which I understand Ms. Clare has had problems with in the past). That being said, if I had know I never would have read this book. And that would have been a shame. This book isn’t perfect, it has a few insurmountable flaws, to be honest, but it was a very enjoyable summer read.
Clary Fray has always been a normal teenage girl until the night she witnesses a murder. But it’s clear almost right away that his is no ordinary killing, this is supernatural. In fact, Clary has stumbled upon the world of the Shadowhunters, a race of humans who keep order to the world, taking care of demons and half-breed Downworlders who step out of line. They are usually hidden from view, but Clary can see them and soon she learns why. When her mother disappears from their Brooklyn apartment and a demon tries to kill her she is whisked away by the dastardly handsome teenage Shadowhunter, Jace Wayland, to their Institute in Manhattan. There Clary discovers there is far more to the world than she knew. With the presumed dead, evil, Shadowhunter, Valentine, potentially on the loose, the knowledge that Clary’s mother was a Shadowhunter herself in another life, and that her mother’s best friend, Luke, is actually an ex-Shadowhunter turned werewolf it’s safe to assume nothing will ever be the same again. But can Clary save her mother and New York at the same time?
Like the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy after it, the Mortal Instruments apparently started out as Harry Potter fan fiction. I can see it. I can totally see it. In fact, while I was reading it, having always heard it mentioned in the same breath as ‘Twilight’ I was pleased to see it had more in common with Rowlings’ books than Meyer’s. It’s like Harry Potter with all the lame angst of Twilight. Except, less lame. Let’s look at the similiarities; in both Harry Potter and the Mortal Instruments we have a character who discovers that they are part of a world of magic that they didn’t even know existed. In both series there is a shadowy antagonist from the past, with ties to the lead character, that has since been believed dead. In both series they are looking for three powerful tools that have the ability to bring great peace or great destruction. Yes, the Mortal Instruments are most certainly the Deathly Hallows. There is also the multigenerational aspect to both stories. When the Potter series begins we are given, almost exclusively, the lives of the current Hogwarts students. But by the time we reach book three we are introduced to a whole bevy of (in my opinion) more interesting characters one generation from the past. In the Mortal Instruments this is also very present with the older generation playing a larger part in the story.
This book is pretty good, really, so I would recommend it to the right person. However, it would have to be the right person. To be honest the reason it took me so long to read this book, considering it comes up time and time again when you’re addicted to YA and a fan of the Blue Bloods series, is that the cover is quite simply terrible. I mean, terrible. I can only imagine that the barechested youth on the cover is supposed to be Jace but it’s really sort of embarrassing. Suffice it to say I read this one only at home. But the story was quick paced and exciting, so if demon fighting, vampires, werewolves, and magic are your thing, give it a go.
City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2) – Cassandra Clare
The second book of the original Mortal Instruments trilogy (she ended up writing a second series with the same characters, some people don’t know when to quit) ‘City of Ashes’ was on par with its counterpart. It continued the story while adding more layers to this mythology.
Having received some startling news about Jace, Clary takes some wary steps towards the Shadowhunter world, not that she can escape it. With her mother in a magic induced coma and Clary taking up permanent residence with werewolf Luke she determines to learn more about her family’s calling. But pretty soon Jace and Clary realize that they might not be quite normal; their powers seem to exceed those around them. But, is that a good thing? And more importantly, is it safe?
But with the Shadowhunter conclave’s stubborn Inquisitor in town it may be harder than they thought to convince everyone that Jace is not the enemy and with the Mortal Cup in hand Valentine is more powerful than ever and thus wages war agaisnt the Silent city below ground to secure the Mortal Sword. Annointed with the blood of a werewolf child, a vampire child, a fae child, and a young warlock the sword can reverse it’s angelic power and control demons. All agree that Valentine at the helm of a demon army would be unbeatable. But can they stop him from harvesting the blood and annointing the sword in time?
Clary continues to be a relatively engaging heroine, exhibiting the correct amount of power and helplessness for someone new to this sort of life. Our leading man, Jace, having been dealt several significant blows at the climax of the first novel, is licking his wounds with all the sarcasm he can muster. I approve. Mostly. The supporting characters are all far more realized than other books of this ilk and I found myself liking them rather a lot. Particularly Alec, whose budding romance with warlock Magnus Bane is frankly rather adorable.
If you liked the first book, keep reading. This one gives you more of the same, with a little bit extra for good measure. The sign of a successful middle book.
City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) – Cassandra Clare
‘City of Glass’ takes a major departure from the first two books in the Mortal Instruments trilogy in its complete change of location. The first two took place firmly in New York City, both Brooklyn and Manhattan. ‘City of Glass’ takes place mostly in the Shadowhunter’s home country, Idris, and the capital city of Alicante.
Having learned that her mother’s coma can be reversed with the help of a warlock living in Idris, Clary prepares to visit the Shadowhunter’s home world for the first time. But Valentine is already there and this time he may have an inside man. Could this be the end of the Shadowhunters as we know them? Can Clary and Jace change what seems certain? And will the Clave get over themselves long enough to accept help from the Downworlders? All will finally be revealed, including the reality of truths long since accepted.
‘City of Glass’ is undoubtedly the most complicated of the series. And that’s not surprising. It seems to be the role of the third book in a trilogy to deepen the story and show the audience that the groundwork that’s been laid down was, in fact, laid for something.This wraps up the story well [SPOILERS] with a quite literal deus ex machina ending (which I’m okay with, ’cause how often does that happen these days?), the knowledge that our lovers aren’t related by blood, peace to all Downworlder and Shadowhunters, and the mom FINALLY getting together with that BFF that’s loved her all along the ending is very satisfying. [END SPOILERS]
Which is why, for the life of me, I can’t understand why Cassandra Clare decided she needed to revive these characters for a second trilogy. She already wrote a Victorian counterpart that takes place in the same universe. Some people don’t know when to leave well enough alone. It’s like that old tale that I can’t remember the source of; someone walks into a kindergarten teacher’s classroom and sees all kinds of wonderful art and makes comment that the older kids are delivering all kinds of crap while all these are Matisse’s, every one. The teacher explains that it’s just a matter of knowing when to take away the paintbrush. The actually story is much more prolific, but the point is that Clare REALLY doesn’t know when to take away the paintbrush. I have decided I don’t need to read the second trilogy. But someday I might pick up the Infernal Devices trilogy, I always did love me a little steampunk.
I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
I like good literature. I like books that win prizes, ones that mean something, I like books filled with lyrical prose that change the way I think about things. So why then have I read (almost) every book Sophie Kinsella has ever written? I mean, in the grand scheme of things they are really dumb. There is always a lovely girl who’s squeaking by an existence that she doesn’t quite realize she’s dissatisfied with until she meets a rich (and often times stuffy) tycoon who she eventually realizes has many layers and business is just one of them. [‘Remember Me?’ being a notable exception, which I think is why it’s often lauded as her best.] Kinsella could probably use some range. But then again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While Sophie Kinsella rarely breaks any new ground, her books are very charming. And a whole lot of fun to read. ‘I’ve Got Your Number’, while relatively implausible, is not an exception.
On the eve of her perspective in-law’s arrival in town Poppy Wyatt loses her engagement ring. Her diamond and emerald family heirloom engagement ring that is. Horrified and in a panic, and after her mobile phone is stolen, Poppy takes a phone that she finds in the garbage bin so that she has a number to pass to the hotel where she lost the ring. But, of course, the phone has to belong to someone. Enter Sam Roxton, businessman extraordinaire, who’s assistant quit suddenly for a modeling gig and tossed the phone on her way out the door. Sam agrees to let Poppy keep the corporate phone for a few days on the condition that she forwards his emails. She agrees, but can she manage to keep her left hand hidden from her fiance’s family until the ring is returned? Can she keep herself from meddling in Sam’s life? And most importantly, is she marrying the right man?
Poppy is, at times, infuriatingly invasive. She butts so thoroughly into Sam’s personal and work life that I wanted to shake her and say “What in god’s name are you doing?!” But she’s also sweet, completely spastic, and impossible not to recognize in yourself. And Sam’s no straight prize either. He’s curt, distracted, and way too into work. But then it’s easy to see that these two are perfect together. So, yes, clearly they are the romantic leads of this book. Even though Poppy’s engaged to Magnus. Who, along with his family, is… a tad pedantic, so you don’t much mind if he and Poppy split.
This is your typical Chick Lit fare. Sappy but heartwarming. Trite, but satisfying. Don’t expect any more from it. But then, why would you? Kinsella’s reputation has been cemented, for better or worse. She has a formula, the reader knows what to expect. Which is fine, because this book was charming, fast paced, and often times hilarious.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec: The Mad Scientists/Mummies on Parade – Jacques Tardi
I’m reading these backwards. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that my interest stemmed from the Luc Besson film ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec’. Quite frankly, I loved the film. The visuals were amazing, the story humorous and, well, extraordinary, and the lead character quite fun. I was aware in it’s beginnings as graphic novels but I didn’t really give the idea of reading them too much thought until I happened upon volume 2 at the library.
In these continuing stories of Adèle Blanc-Sec our heroine comes across a reanimated pithecanthropus, gets abducted several times, hit over the head, shot at, foils a mad scientist, discovers several underground cults, losses a mummy, narrowly escapes several shadowy deaths and succumbs to one.
As you can likely see describing the plots to these stories is rather difficult. But they are great fun. It’s best if you just search them out and read them yourself. And who doesn’t love a little impossible adventure every once in awhile?
Gossip Girl: I Will Always Love You – Cecily von Ziegesar
(*** of five)
Why did I read this? I hate to leave things unfinished. So when I discovered that a new Gossip Girl book had been published (new is relative, in this case I mean two years after book eleven hit shelves) about the old crew taking place over their college years I couldn’t not read it. The thing to remember about the Gossip Girl books these days is that they are not the television show. [Though, personally, I prefer the show.] In the books drama queen Blair and too perfect Serena were constantly bickering over pot smoking Nate, who was never able to choose between them, Dan was a coffee crystal guzzling depressive with a penchant for Goethe, Jenny was a large chested exuberant youth, Vanessa a shaved head avant garde film maker, and Chuck was… sometimes a molester of young girls and other times what can only be described as gay. The changes that were made for the show were fine by me, but these are not those characters. Now we get to see the original characters grow up. Or not.
Christmas break of their freshman year of college Blair and Serena are still at odds over Nate, who set sail after graduation instead of choosing between them. Serena, after the success of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s remake, Breakfast at Fred’s (yes this was a real plotline), is a semi-famous actress, but still feels unfulfilled. Blair’s met Pete, the perfect Yaley to go with the image of her perfect life, but is horrified to learn his family’s not taking her on vacation with them. Dan returns from Evergreen College in the Pacific Northwest with plans to transfer to Columbia in order to be near his lady love, Vanessa, who he promptly catches cheating on him. Chuck has returned from Deep Springs, an all male college located on a working alfalfa farm in California where he applied after being rejected from every school to which he applied, a new man. Gone is his constant companion, his monkey Sweetie (she died), and gone is his trademark monogrammed cashmere scarf. Basically, he’s no longer a douche (his words, not mine) in blatant pandering to fans of the show (where he’s pretty much the male lead and rather appealing, at times, instead of the minor character he was here). Pretty soon they’re back to their old ways of only dating each other. Dan writes a published poem about his old crush, Serena, and they start to date. Jenny returns from boarding school and falls back into a relationship with Nate. Blair sees Nate briefly, then goes back to Pete, then starts dating Chuck (television pandering again). Vanessa dates her old teacher but misses Dan. You know, pretty much what we read for eleven books before this one. Which is fine, I guess. This book is catering to a specific fan base and it stays true to that. Do we really want to see the characters grow apart because that’s what is realistic? Not really. Which is the same problem most TV shows have when they reach the college years.
This book wasn’t really written by Ms. von Ziegesar (neither were the last few or any of the Gossip Girl: Carlyles) but the writing is still atrocious. But at least Serena stops being so over the top perfect and Blair’s antics are toned down. Maybe this is growing up in the Gossip Girl world.
Dare Me – Meg Abbott
I read the review of this book in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and found the plot line intriguing. Battling cheerleaders? Murder mystery? Inappropriate coach student friendships? Sign me up. The book started out a bit slow but quickly sped into an exciting tale with a somewhat unreliable narrator.
Addy Hanlon has always been perfectly happy as #2, trusted lieutenant to top girl, Beth. Popular, beautiful, cheerleaders, they rule the school. And now that they’re seniors, the year and the squad is bound to rock. But then they meet the new cheer coach, Colette French. Strict and beautiful, Addy finds herself drawn to Coach’s new iron rule. The team gets better, their bodies morph into muscled machines, and some of them even start eating. The only one who’s not thrilled is Beth, who’s rule has been cut short. She doesn’t fall under Coach’s spell and she seems to resent that everyone else has, especially Addy, who is undoubtedly Coach’s favorite. But when Coach French finds herself at the center of a police investigation Addy’s loyalties are tested. Unsure who to believe and who’s stories to trust, Addy takes it upon herself to find out what really happened. Even if she doesn’t like the truth.
Is this a realistic look at teenage girls? I’m not sure. Yes, I was one, and yes, many of these issues were present in my life, casual eating disorders being one (it is depressing when these are simple fact rather than disorder), but I also went to the sort of school that didn’t have cheerleading and actively strove towards equality (didn’t work but I suppose they did what they could). Are there silent power struggles? Yes. Do girls play dirty? Hell yes. Is being a teenage girl akin to going to battle? Sure, when you’re on guard around half the people you know, sure.
This book showed the ugly side of being a girl, the ugly side of beauty, but did so in a not particularly realistic way. The relationship between Coach and the girls was way over the top inappropriate. She had them over for dinner often and severed them alcohol. She started to lean on Addy dependently. I don’t really believe this would happen, but it’s interesting to see what might happen if it did. Poor Addy is far too involved in the whole thing, really. It’s a first person narrative so at points it’s necessary, but also surreal. And it makes Coach seem very unstable. Which she very well might have been.
By the time I reached the end of this novel I was absolutely riveted. The prose was simple and effective, the plot twisting,and the characters fascinating despite their many flaws. Best of all, you never knew who’s side of be on, even in the end, and that really worked for me. Love this book, loved it lots. Would recommend.
A Little Demonstration of Affection – Elizabeth Winthrop
This was sort of a strange little book. I feel like I keep randomly picking up books that belong on my strange-familial-relations shelf. This was a super quick read, which was part of the reason I picked it up in the first place, but it sort of read as part cautionary tale and part pleasant little yarn.
Jenny has never been close to her brother, Charley. He’s the bookish one who suffers from asthma and would rather be writing in his notebook than playing outside. She gets along much better with the eldest, John. But John’s growing up and no longer want to hang out with his little sister. When John goes away for the summer and Charley’s dog dies the two remaining siblings realize they have the capacity to be friends.
So, yeah, Jenny sort of develops a crush on Charley. But it’s not really all that creepy, the crush is all but innocent. This book is really more about getting priorities in order and figuring out feelings when young. In some way it was a little sweet. In other ways very easy to look at and say “What the fuck?” But then again, after reading ‘Ada, or Ardor’ earlier this year I’m not sqweemed out by much.
Jenny and Charley often discuss how strange it is that their parents never show affection in front of them. They never touch, and thus the children have never been shown that it’s okay to touch. So, there it is parents; demonstrate affection or your kids run the risk of not being able to tell the difference between sibling and romantic love.
But, really, this book was pretty good. I wouldn’t say it’s essential reading but it’s sort of brave to tackle this sort of potentially confusing issue.
Vicious Little Darlings – Katherine Easer
This book was absurd. It was filled with ridiculous choices, unrealistic characters, and choices that made absolutely no sense. However, it was a really fun read that I sped through really wanting to know what happens in the end. It served it’s purpose but didn’t go any further.
Sarah Weaver is given a choice by her grandmother, go to alma mater, Wetherly, a women’s college in New England, or go it alone at UCLA. Not wanting to be stuck with insurmountable student loans she chooses the former, much to her chagrin. On her first day she walk in on her roommate giving her boyfriend, Sebastian, a blowjob. But the awkwardness is soon forgotten and Sarah finds herself drawn into Maddy’s world and that of her best friend, Agnes, who holds a platonic infatuation with Maddy. Soon the threesome move into an expansive Victorian home and for a time everything seems perfect until the tiny oddities continue to add up and Sarah realizes that this world is far from perfect. It might even be deadly.
Let’s start with Sarah. She is a massive slut. I mean, that’s cool and everything but it doesn’t make her all that sympathetic when she beds her roommates boyfriend who she continually refers to, rightly, as obnoxious. In fact, most of her sexploits come off as bragging. I’m no prude. Quite honestly I like a female character with a healthy sexual appetite. But the way she comes off is really just short of terribly annoying. But at least it doesn’t go on forever. Relatively soon she falls in love with Reed, a rather typical art school fellow who puts up with her shit for too long.
Agnes doesn’t make much sense either. She pays for everything, cleans the house, cooks the food, and does it all with a smile because she’s so enamored of Maddy. It seems that when they were little they saw into each other’s souls and Agnes has just been waiting for Maddy to see reason and devote herself to Agnes as much as Agnes has devoted herself to Maddy.
Maddy is kind and erratic. Manipulative but sweet. When both her parents died she got a feeling that she could read the future and is sure that she’s going to die young. She’s so obsessed with this fact, in fact, that she will not listen to reason and soon the idea all but consumes her to the point where she’d do pretty much anything to prevent her untimely death.
As you can see all the characters are stupid. Yet, in a way their sort of endearing. I read this book quickly, speeding through to see how they would all eventually come to a head. And they did, spectacularly so. It was a fun read, but I couldn’t recommend it to anyone without a severe warning.
The Lessons – Naomi Alderman
‘The Lessons’ comes from a long tradition of college group stories. The segment written on the cover compares it to ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and Donna Tartt (so how could I resist, right?). I think ‘Brideshead’ is a good comparison. But with so many books in these categories, one has to wonder with each addition; is this really necessary? My answer, usually, is yes. There is a reason why books like ‘The Secret History’ and ‘Brideshead Revisited’ resonate with so many people. They are about specific times that you can never get back, for one reason or another, but you never stop trying.
James Stieff is a physics major at Oxford. Like Charles Ryder before him he has a family member telling him how to go about making the right sort of friends and the right sort of life. Never the less, James starts Oxford terminally lonely, so he’s ecstatic when he falls in with an exclusive crowd. The benefactor, wildly rich Mark, who’s cruelty matches his pocketbook; James’ new girlfriend, Jess, beautiful and unassuming; gorgeous, Spanish, Emmanuella and whoever she’s toting around that week; Franny with hair as curly as her personality; and her friend with benefits, Simon, who aspires towards Parliament. The group weaves their way through four years of University in Mark’s inherited, palatial Oxford home and it’s only when they lave that they realize sticking together is easier than it sounds. But this crew is not quite done with each other, there’s still plenty of hurt to pass around.
The plot of ‘The Lessons’ is familiar. Some of the character are even familiar, but Ms Alderman has shined up this group with enough spit and polish that they still seem interesting. And thank goodness she’s left some of the rough edges. James is a worthy narrator. He has enough of his own plot going on that it’s clear he’s not just a simple observer. In fact, unlike many of these stories, the plot revolves around him. Sure there are enough characters and everyone is given something to do, but James’ story remains central and Emmanuella, Franny, and Simon often seem like peripheral characters instead of members of the group. Especially the former, who’s main role in the piece is being beautiful enough to initially attract James’ attention to them. But that’s okay. Their presence makes this sort of life plausible. College groups always have certain member who are closer than others.
Nothing huge happens in this story, only the joys and tragedies of regular life. It was wonderfully written and tragically realized, and often times, real life is enough. This was probably more a three point five rather than a straight three, but it certainly wasn’t a four.
The Visibles – Sara Shepard
(*** of five)
At times this was the weirdest book, at other times it was great, but afterwards I found it rather forgettable. I read this on vacation and sped through it quickly. But, being on vacation and all, I didn’t review it right away and when it came time to do so I found it a bit difficult to recall what this story was about.
Summer Davis is growing up in Brooklyn when her mother up and leaves her family and mentally ill husband. From there the story moves through time, skipping years and changing locations as often as chapters. From New York City to rural Western Pennsylvania to Annapolis and Washington D.C. Summer grows up but never leaves her demons behind. Paralyzed between her own stagnating fears and her sense of duty in taking care of her depressed father Summer prevents herself from ever taking risks or changing. She longs to live outside herself, sometimes not responding to her own name and other times running away from opportunity, but never seems willing to actually take the risk in order to change her life.
I think that Summer’s story is probably familiar. Changing is difficult and it’s tempting to allow life to flow by without becoming too engaged. But, reading this sort of passivity was maddening. Too many times I wanted to take her by the shoulders and tell her to do something. Anything. Even when spectacular opportunities are presented she drags her feet until it passes her by. And when she doesn’t feel needed by her father she runs to her Great Aunt who’s dying of cancer. Summer’s life revolves around taking care of those who need her and when she runs out of those she seems adrift. It was a quiet book, a frustrating one, but it was effective for what I felt the author was trying to accomplish.
Sara Shepard, the author, is the writer of Young Adult fiction series such as ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and ‘The Lying Game’. I watch both of the television series based on these books and like them both (slightly addicted to ‘Pretty Little Liars’). I don’t read the books and if I ever do it will be when the shows are off the air. This is Shepard’s first attempt at adult fiction and it’s a commendable effort. Clearly she can write and clearly she understands the complications of growing up and dealing with mental illness. So why didn’t this story stick with me? I’m not sure. It was fast paced but not exciting. It was relatable but not likable. Maybe I just recognized too much of myself in Summer.