BBB Book Review - Tape by Steven Camden

Monday, 24 March 2014

I'm certainly not one to judge a book by its cover, but the cover of Tape by Steven Camden* certainly had me intrigued. Growing up in the 90s, I remember many a happy Sunday afternoon taping songs off the radio, trying desperately to press the stop button prior to the DJ starting to talk. I remember reading Just 17 at the time, and they would regularly 'give away' tape covers for your own mix tapes. Music was certainly an element of the book I think could have been explored, perhaps similarly to Nicky Hornby's High Fidelity.

Record a voice and it lasts forever…
In 1993, Ryan records a diary on an old tape. He talks about his mother’s death, about his dreams, about his love for a new girl at school who doesn’t even know he exists.
In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die. There, she finds a tape in the spare room. A tape with a boy’s voice on it – a voice she can’t quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her.
Ryan and Ameliah are connected by more than just a tape.
This is their story.

Reading this book certainly made me feel nostalgic (if not a little bit old), but I wonder how teens reading the book today (the age group it is aimed at) will respond to these references.  I have found writing this review, quite difficult, as I'm not entirely sure whether I liked this book or not. I found the first few chapters hard to get through, but then the story started to open up a bit more and I enjoyed it, but I was never really sure what the point of the story was. I guessed how Ryan and Ameliah were linked reasonably early on, so after that I was sort of thinking, well where is it going? The slight supernatural element of the two 'speaking to one another' through the tape, was never really fully explained, and this is another area that could have been made more prominent within the book.

I liked the way the book was laid out, with the pause symbols between the sections for each characters, and that the dust jacket was made to look like a tape cover. I found the font used for Ryan quite hard on the eyes after a while, and I had some little niggles with the overall writing. One being that, despite being set in England, the author used the term "Mom" rather than "Mum", even though the author is English. Also there are no speak marks at all throughout the novel, which makes it very hard to distinguish between thoughts and conversations. I have absolutely no idea why the author/publishers chose to present it like this as it serves no real purpose, and wouldn't have done the presentation of the book any harm to use traditional formatting. 

Just to demonstrate what I mean

Ryan jumped
-Got you! Big L strikes again
- I told you not to do that.
- I know but its too easy, man.

I know its not difficult to follow it's just slightly irritating.

The reason I can kinda say I liked this book, is that I liked the sentiment. It was about young love, family love, the love of friends, and learning about who is there for you when facing hardship. I didn't struggle to get through it, like I do sometimes with a book I really don't enjoy, which makes me think I did enjoy it. I guess if I was going to going it a star rating I'd probably give it a 3 and a half. I certainly would recommend it, but I wouldn't rave about it perhaps. 

Have you read Tape?

*Tape was sent to me to review

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