3 / 5
"The first thing they'll ask me is how I met her."
When you open up, who will you let in?
When Alex Morris loses her fiancé in dreadful circumstances, she moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Alex takes a job at a Pupil Referral Unit, which accepts the students excluded from other schools in the city. These are troubled, difficult kids and Alex is terrified of what she's taken on.
There is one class - a group of five teenagers - who intimidate Alex and every other teacher on The Unit. But with the help of the Greek tragedies she teaches, Alex gradually develops a rapport with them. Finding them enthralled by tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge, she even begins to worry that they are taking her lessons to heart, and that a whole new tragedy is being performed, right in front of her...
First off: apologies for the long hiatus! We've had a lot going on in our own lives lately: I've had a beautiful baby girl, and AmberBug has started an awesome new job! Both of which are keeping us quite busy. Not, of course, too busy to read! But unfortunately it's meant giving a bit less attention to our blog. We hope to resume more regular postings soon!
In the meantime, on to my review...
Unlike AmberBug, I went into this book with absolutely no expectations. I think that actually helped quite a bit, because I would also have been disappointed if I were expecting a really suspenseful, can't-put-it-down novel. This was definitely NOT that. It was, I suppose, more of a character study, although I found it odd that I didn't connect at all on any level with any of the characters - even though I think the author intended for me to. While I felt detached sympathy for Alex, the main character, I didn't really care about her outcome. And that was true several times over for all of her (what felt like peripheral) students. It was so odd, because I felt like you'd just barely met everyone and, boom, there was the crux of the plot! I think the author spent more time with those characters in her head, and expected we'd done the same? In any case, I found I just didn't care about anyone in the story. And I didn't believe in the main characters' motivations, which meant the denoument felt incrdibly flimsy to me.
I also didn't like how the reader was made to feel as if the entire group of students were involved in the crime being outlined, from the title and from how much attention was equally paid to everyone in the class. I wasn't quite sure how the rest of the students played into the actions of the one. Why did the reader have to spend so much time with all of them? Just to learn about the tragic lives of troubled youths?
And to me, the connections between the story and the discussed Greek plays were VERY tenuous. While I enjoyed learning a bit more about a few classic Greek tragedies, I felt as if I didn't get a very thorough understanding of them, and yet at the same time - like Amber - I felt as if I were stuck back in a high school English classroom. Boring!
And, I'm sorry - naming the other boy in a fight Donny Brooks: REALLY? That got to me, even though I laughed out loud upon first encountering it.
Overall, I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone, although I certainly didn't hate reading it. Some of the writing was really great. I just felt like the novel dragged quite a bit, and my time could have been spent better elsewhere. But I do agree with Amber that the inclusion of the Greek plays helped make the book quite a bit more interesting, and I did come away with a bit more knowledge, which I always appreciate.
Support Shelf Notes! Purchase your copy of this book here:
Left: Hardcover - Right: E-Book