Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew

Publication Date: November 11th 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Length: 320 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Children’s for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

A small boy hiding in a cupboard witnesses something no child should ever see. He tries not to look but he still hears it. And when he comes out, there's no mistaking. His mum and dad have been killed. And though he's only small, he swears that he'll get revenge one day. 
Years later, Trey enters a strange camp that is meant to save troubled teenagers. It's packed with crazies, god-botherers, devoted felons and broken kids. Trey's been in and out of trouble ever since the day the bad thing happened, but he's he not here for saving: this is where he'll find the man who did it. Revenge and healing, salvation and hell are a boiling, dangerous mix, and Trey finds himself drawn to a girl, a dream and the offer of friendship in the dark.

I wasn’t sold on that blurb but I was at least curious, curious enough to want to pick it up and give it a go. However it ended up being a hodge podge story of problems, confusion and lacked any sort of direction or purpose.

The writing style is either going to draw you in or put you off. Run on sentences that take up half a page, overly descriptive passages that sometimes veer into lyrical beauty and sometimes just leave you scratching your head wandering what the hell the author means. This style means that there are long sections of nothing happening at all, and I have to admit to skim reading whole chunks of this because I was just becoming so bored with the overly detailed passages. The actual characters are a bit of a mix. I never really connected with any of them, and I don’t know if that was the writing style or the story or just the un-likeability of them. They never gain any depth or sense of character and as a result I just didn’t care. Everything they say is either ‘said’ or ‘shouted’ and particularly when the characters are supposed to be being stealthy that starts to grate incredibly quickly.

The setting is particularly bizarre. It’s supposed to be set in Cornwall, England, but it feels more like America. At no point does it ever feel as though that setting rings true. Plus it’s hard to pin point exactly what the situation is for this camp that Trey ends up in. Some of the conversations in the second half of the book about other camps like this and the army regulating everything makes it sound like this is some sort of dystopian future, but there are no explanations, no backstory, nothing outside of Trey’s ‘quest’ to make this story more real and relatable to the reader. It’s just thrown out at you and you’re expected to accept it as is. If the rest of the elements were well done enough this might just work, but as it is it just leaves you feeling displaced and confused.

And then there’s the plot. I was expecting a revenge quest – after all that’s what the blurb tells us we’re getting, and yes revenge is a pre-dominant factor for the first half of the book. Never mind the fact that most of Trey’s planning and thinking has so many plot holes that if you tried to float it it would sink. It’s patchy at best, but then suddenly at the halfway mark everything is revealed and we take an abrupt side shuffle into some sort of ‘Lord of the Flies’ retelling. Its abrupt, it’s confusing, it makes zero sense. The revenge plotline is all but forgotten in favour of creating traps, defences and weapons, and having big showdowns. I was left more than a little baffled.

This could have been a fascinating story told in a unique and lyrical way. What we get is some cobbled together narrative with a bizarre setting, no real direction or purpose, and characters that don’t feel fully formed. It feels like a first draft, a concept yet to be finished and improved. I felt thoroughly disappointed and as though I’d just wasted my time.

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