Elizabeth Rudnick’s debut Tweet Heart is original in nothing except its ‘format’. Following four friends, Claire, Lottie, Will, and Bennett through their respective Tweets on Twitter, their blog posts and some emails, what we get is a fairly standard teenage romance novel. Much like Lauren Myracle’s TTYL-series the novelty is the set-up, rather than the plot. There’s only so much you can do with this particular format, of course, and Rudnick explores that to the limits. Characterization is definitely there, but with a maximum of 140 characters per tweet, you can’t really expect the plot to get all Gravity’s Rainbow on you. So instead, we get girl crushes on hot boy. Best male friend crushes on girl, pretends to be said hot boy on Twitter, girl finds out, yadda yadda yadda. I mean, this is not the stuff of grand literary awards. But although this type of book probably doesn’t really have a lot of staying power (such is the nature of The Tweet, I guess), it does have instant appeal at the moment. The first day the cat put it in the library it was checked out. Also, considering it’s just one of those books that reluctant readers might pick up, it gets an additional bonus star.
There are only so many original plotlines. There’s ‘good girl meets bad boy’; there’s ‘boy with the troubled past’; there’s ‘girl with the troubled past’. Katie McGarry’s debut novel Pushing the Limits combines all of these plotlines promising above all… a love story. Now, telling an unoriginal story is OK. Even Shakespeare wasn’t one to tell original stories, you know? The cat even digs teenage romance* as long as there’s something to convince you that what you are reading is something special, that somehow *this* is the book you’ve been waiting to read forever. Lots of books have come close, but none have ever really gotten *there*. Could be characterization. Could be the style. Could be the format. Pushing the Limits has none of these outstanding features.
But leaving aside that the plot is completely unoriginal and that the characters are flat and uninspired , what actually did make this novel stand out was the horrendous writing. McGarry ticked me off after a couple of pages when there’s this one line that just should have made me stop reading it. I knew this book would become a train wreck but when Noah started calling Echo ‘baby’ or ‘siren’ every five seconds, I knew we’d crossed over to fan fiction land and even trains get out of head-on collisions better than this book. Ugh, double ugh!
* Anything by Sarah Dessen!
At least bad and melodramatic writing is not something you can accuse Sara Zarr of in How to Save a Life. Quite the opposite, because even though the topics at hand – the loss of a father and teen pregnancy – have melodrama plastered all over themselves, there’s nothing of the sort here. Instead, the writing is much like its main characters realistic, raw even.
The story is told in alternating voices. First, the voice of Jill, who lost her father a while ago and has to come to terms with his death and the fact that her mother decided to adopt a baby, her own way to cope with losing her husband and a sure way to give the love she still feels for him… That baby will be provided by Mandy, the other voice of the story. Mandy’s is a completely different voice than Jill’s. While Jill comes off as haughty and bitchy – even though she’s more angry and sad than an actual outright bitch! – Mandy’s voice is so heartbreakingly honest, naïve even.. Mandy never knew her father and had an abusive stepfather, who was only the last one in a lost string of boyfriends her mother had. Both girls just don’t understand each other’s way of life and reasoning, but they both provide the necessary insight in each other for both the reader and themselves.
How to Save a Life is nothing sort of a touching and tender story that, yes, ends in the sweetest of ways. For some this ending may ultimately prove to be a bit too sugary, but all in all this is what you hope would happen for these characters.