Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: So Shelley by Ty Roth

Wow I’m behind on this Debut YA challenge.

I think part of the reason is that it took me a very long time to finish So Shelley. This isn’t because it’s a bad book by any matter of means. Actually, I found it rather enjoyable. It’s just that it wasn’t the sort of good that made me want to pick it up again and again.

For me, there are two kinds of good books: the really exciting, really good ones that drag me away from my work and make me want to read them because I can’t wait to see what happens next; and the good ones that I’m very happy to have on a long plane trip or family vacation. So Shelley is in a later category, and the problem was that I didn’t have plane trip to read it on.

So Shelley is probably the most obvious YA literary fiction novel that I’ve ever seen – in both a figurative marketing and an oddly literal sense. The main characters are romantic poets and famous friends John Keats, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley as modern-day teenagers. At first, that sounds...well, kind of like a bad fan fiction, doesn't it? But it's really not. It's facinating.

So Shelley is good on all fronts: it's well-written, the characters are strong, and the story – in which Keats and Gordon (Byron) steal Shelley’s ashes to fulfill her final wish – is intriguing. The prose can be a little clumsy and adverb-heavy sometimes, but it is not bad by any matter of means. I think the strongest point is the characters, since they're interesting enough to even make the long flashbacks to the obnoxious back story of Gordon Byron entertaining.

But once I put the book down, I had very little drive to go back to it. It is definitely not the sort of fast-passed action book that drags you back night after night; rather, it has a slow, leisurely pace that is very satisfying when taken in large chunks. That’s really the only way you can absorb all of the heavy themes and characters involved.

It’s not perfect by any matter of means, but really, any criticism I’d try to give at this point would just be knit picking. So Shelley can be a very fulfilling book, if you’re looking for that sort of thing, and if you have the patience to take it on.

My advice for reading this book: settle down with it over a comfortable weekend and take the time to be immersed in it. At the very least, you’ll come away with a few new thoughts in mind and a relatively satisfying experience.


  1. Thanks for a fantastic review. I so want to read this. The cover looks absolutely beautiful and I've heard good things about it.

  2. It looks really good. Can't wait to get my hands on this one. Great review.