Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: Tape - Steven Camden

Steven Camden
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I picked up Tape as an ARC at BEA 2014, which was almost a year ago so it hasn't been an ARC since it's publication in September, which is why it fulfilled the requirement to be chosen as "an old ARC you never got to" for my January pick from my TBR Jar. Yes, I know it's April. I know I'm behind. Judge me all you want, this is the most stressed I've ever been in my life and now I have to deal with looking for internships and moving and -- okay, I'm going to save the ranting about my life for Life of a Blogger posts.

Anyway, you might recognize this title from Amrutha's Stuffed Animal Saturday at the end of January. Looking back at that post, the book seemed so much more promising than it turned out to be, but that post was just also hilariously off the mark. I suppose you can't blame her, she is a simple dolphin after all. *cue someone telling me that dolphins are smarter than humans and the word simple is offensive*

Okay, we're getting off track here (okay, I'm getting off track here), there is a two star rating that needs to be addressed. This book could have been so much. Just look at that cover. It's beautiful enough to be my February TBR (read a book solely judging by its cover). And the blurb promises a story of "two teenagers separated by time but infinitely connected." A story that "to really get it, you just have to read it." Well, I read it, and there are parts I still don't get.

Like the tape itself. For some background, Ryan and Ameliah are our two main characters and the story alternates between their storylines, Ryan's in the 90's, Ameliah's in the present day. Ameliah has found, in her attic, a stash of old audio tapes, many of which are static, but some of which relay the voice of a boy sometimes saying her mom's name and telling her stories. Ryan, meanwhile, is often found recording tapes for his mom, but also sometimes for other purposes. There comes a point in which they both say something into their respective cassette playing devices and they end up being able to hear the other. Woah, weird, right? Twenty year gap, but this is happening, and I can totally roll with it because hey this is a book, and books have magic or science fiction or weird happenings all the time. Except it literally never happens again until the like the last two pages and it's never addressed and it doesn't have any bearing on the plot whatsoever. And the entire rest of this book is set in reality with no magic or time travel or anything that isn't realistic fiction and it just irritates me so much that there are these three pages in the whole book that have these useless scenes that I could honestly rip out and nothing would be lost upon the next reader (I won't do that I can't damage books it's against my moral code). What was the purpose of that????? If you were going to make that a thing, why didn't they talk to each other regularly, or find out some deep intricate plot secrets from one another, or I don't know, this could have gone so many ways. Honestly, it should have just been taken out, it seemed thrown in as an afterthought but it so clearly wasn't.

However, that's not my only issue with the book. The beginning was just so hard to get through. And by beginning I mean like the first half. I keep saying it took me so long to read it because I haven't had time but I think it's also very much because even when I did have time this book was so dry that after a few pages I would just put it down and do something else. The writing was just so monotonous and boring and everything was described in weird ways. It wasn't too detailed or anything, it just wasn't memorable writing, I honestly can't remember anything except for the fact that he overused the phrase "he/she puffed out his/her" cheeks" way too much and started to bother me so much I would get genuinely angry when I saw it. What does that even mean? I tried puffing out my cheeks and it does not express any of the emotions the characters are showing when they are doing that, which is every emotion because he uses it when they're confused, frustrated, happy, sad, upset, curious, thinking, talking, deliberating, anything really. I tried reconciling it in my head by imagining them like blowing air out their mouths but kindof through their cheeks if you can picture that but that connotes frustration so it wasn't applicable everywhere but it got me through.

Anyway, the first half was spent mostly just introducing the characters and talking about their lives and it was honestly just, like I already mentioned, dry and not fun to read, and I could feel myself waiting for the stories to connect so I could find something to be interested in or at least want to follow. I don't know why it took so long, there are only like three and a half characters probably. But so much time was spent on irrelevant things and it felt like it moved so slow and nothing really happened. By the time things picked up, I had already figured out the big reveal (it wasn't hard you probably already know) and even the twist at the end with Joe wasn't hard considering there were one of two possibilities for him.

The characters for the most part felt dull but they had their moments (not enough moments to warrant more than two stars). Ryan and Eve felt kinda insta-love but it wasn't too too bad where I'd harp on it like I can see where it can also be kinda "13 year old boy sees 13 year old girl and they think the other is cute and then they talk and they're like wow we are in love" because that's how kids are I just remember 13 year olds being not very forthright about this stuff but what do I know I'm like an old lady (no I'm not I'm 12) and also it's a book who cares. You know who was definitely insta-love? This might be a spoiler, so like, avert your eyes? Ameliah and that supermarket boy. What was that? So cheesy and lame and I'm all for cheesy and lame all the time. Spoiler over by the way. Anyway, speaking of Ameliah, she felt like a shell of a character, and so did Heather, like they both had stock personalities with nothing built upon that. Those aren't characters I enjoy reading. Ryan and Nathan were pretty cliched as well and their development happened too abruptly but I liked that it happened and I liked their stories more than Ameliah's up until the end when she started learning about what happened. Overall, the book was kindof a mess and there are definitely more things I could pick on but if this gets too long no one will read it.

Also, the last thing I want to comment on is I suppose a personal problem but I just really did not like the formatting of the book at all. My biggest problem was that none of the dialogue (which, by the way, was dry and boring and forced) was in quotes! Instead, there were just em dashes ( -- ) used to signify someone was speaking but there was no "he said" or "she said" or like labeling or person talking so you just had to figure out who was talking and sometimes in a conversation someone got two em dashes in a row or three and it was just???????? Also, more minor than that, I didn't like the typeface chosen for neither Ryan nor Ameliah's parts and I didn't like how they looked next to each other. I thought they very much clashed. Like this book did with my brain.

- Noor
Amrutha's Review of Tape
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

If any of you read my stuffed animal saturday (linked above) this past January and accidentally purchased this book based on my analysis of the first three pages, I AM SO SORRY. Again, like many books, it sadly has only a nice cover and very little else to offer. I also got this book at BEA 2014 and like Noor school and classes and internships and things are literally the realest struggle. 

Okay so it has been well established that one of my least favorite things are static characters, which Noor touched upon above. Our homegirl Ameliah literally has the most static stock personality of all time, and none of the supporting characters are much better. Like actually, from the blurb if nothing else, I expected some quirky traits to signify the difference in time but no not even that was given to us. Again, S I G H. Also there is instalove which happens with both the main characters (Ameliah and Ryan) on two different occasions so like ???????? if it /absolutely/ has to happen once I guesssss that's maybe understandable (not really but better than doing it twice). 

Okay so like even if we ignore all of my preferences about books and characters such as non-stereotypical/cliched/static characters and instalove and really awkward mushy I-tried-to-sound-like-a-middle-schooler-in-love-but-failed language, we literally cannot ignore the plot. First things first, the tape was like almost completely irrelevant to the story, which Noor touched on above. Honestly if the book wasn't named tape they could have easily changed this any which way and had the plot really not deviate from where it already is at all -- this should be a sign that the book in question cannot be good, because changing the (what is implied to be) central plot point of the story and still having the same story is just ???????no. 

Because of this, the actual story was a little annoying to follow because I have no idea how this tape playing at the same time worked -- because everything else was so realistic I was like ????? is just just magic should I just accept this or will there be more and just overall it was just really poorly explained. If there is going to be a magic aspect to the book at least explain it, and also that might have made the tape part a little more necessary to the plot. 

Also, Noor said this, but the layout of the book was just kind of ugly for me, in that there are no quotes but dashes instead, making it really hard for me to read through and know who was talking at all times. Also the dual point of view was a little awk in this just because it'd be one chapter with two points of view and sometimes I'd forget who we had switched to and the lack of quotes and indication of who's talking did not help. 

All in all, good cover, but I vote no on the plot. 

P.S. Tape is super predictable like super super predictable like I'm almost 100% sure you guessed what the connection between Ryan and Ameliah is from the blurb or review or the first part of the book. 

Have you ever made anyone a mix tape?
Let us know in the comments!

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