Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Montana in A Minor - Elaine Russell

Montana in A Minor
Elaine Russell
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Easy, Breezy
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Elaine Russell, the author of Montana in A Minor, contacted our blog about reviewing her book, offering a free copy and attaching a description of the book. What really piqued my interest was the mention of Emily, the protagonist, having mild OCD. For some background, the book centers around Emily having to spend the summer in Montana on her stepdad's father's farm because her dad cancelled their tour of Europe because he is a busy symphony conductor who has too many shows. She has an audition for Julliard coming up so she intends to spend every day practicing and perfecting the piece she needs to play on her cello. Throw in a cute boy working on the farm and a few other things and you've got yourself a novel.

So the OCD thing really interested me and I wanted to know how it affected her character and her music and how it would play out in regards to the story. Unfortunately, I thought it wasn't as highlighted as it could have been. We don't even know she has OCD until way into the book. And it doesn't even mention it on the back cover so unless you read the long version of the description on lie before reading the book, you would have no idea that the subtle things Elaine Russell throws in about her behavior are actually results of that. For example, in the first few pages we see her go through a breakup and she's told that her anxieties are too much. That could mean anything. Maybe she just gets paranoid about her cello skills. And then Russell mentions how she does things in threes and taps things and has quirks like that but if you didn't already know this detail, I feel like the reader would have missed it. Emily does eventually enlighten us about her diagnosis of mild OCD and I really liked one part towards the end when Breck (the cute ranch hand) notices her repetitive movements and she freaks out, thinking about how she was told just recently that her anxiety was too much and can't help but feel a little but crazy. I thought that scene was very well done and showed a lot of depth and was extremely realistic. It ended up triggering a fight, along with one pretty big revelation, but in reality, things like this do cause tension and I'm glad it was included in the book. However, like I said, I felt that it was kindof thrown on the back burner. There wasn't too much focus on it and it was only brought up a few times. I'd like to have seen it play more into Emily's personality and affect her life and her cello playing a little bit more.

One thing I did really like about this novel was how Emily threw in musical terms to describe her life. A few examples of the ways she incorporates these terms into her own daily scenarios:
"I hear the slightest esitazione, that momentary pause in a tango when the dancers freeze."
"I wake up at midnight to a shower of stars twinkling and dancing across the sky like a string of quick staccato notes, each one sparkling for an instant of flory before fading away."
The book is littered with these throughout and I think it's one of the best parts of the novel. I really loved how Emily was so in tune to music that she even started thinking of nonconventional things in those terms. It really added to her characterization.

My overall impression of this book was that it was very light and cute, and definitely entertaining, but could use some smoothing of the edges before it gains back those stars I knocked off. For one, the narration wasn't the greatest. I could see Elaine Russell was trying to achieve the 16 year old girl vibe with the voice and narration but something felt off and a lot of it fell flat and choppy, while in other parts Emily's character shone through. I think there should have been more consistency with the narration and a lot of it could have been improved.

In regards to characters, I thought that's where she did a really good job. The main characters were fleshed out well enough for a story this short and even though no one was super in-depth described, they all had their own aspects that came out. Jake, Emily's step-grandfather, was definitely my favorite character and he was also definitely the best developed one. Breck's friends were mostly one dimensional, but they were supposed to be, as they were only there for a scene or two, just there to further along certain scenes.

The story itself wasn't too shocking or anything but it wasn't completely predictable. While things like the romance part and where she ended up with her college/career decisions at the end were obvious form the start, there were definitely quite a few plot points that were unexpected and kept me on my toes. I particularly liked the stuff Russell threw in about the natives of the area, although I wish she had gone somewhere further with that.

Overall, I enjoyed this story but I think this book needed a few more pages in order to flesh the story out and really give it some more depth, as well as improve upon the narration. Other than that, it was a worthwhile read and a good way to spend an hour or so.

- Noor

Where are you spending your summer?
Let us know in the comments!

No comments:

Post a Comment