Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: All Things Different

All Things Different
by Shawn Underhill
Click the cover to buy

Jake's dad let Sara into their lives; he never expected her to come so deeply into their hearts.

It's a rare thing for an author to contact me personally and directly to request a book review; when it does happen, I always want to say yes and love the book.  With such a beautiful cover, how could I go wrong?

Then I started reading.  I'm not saying it's a horrible book - not at all.  I struggled through the whole thing with how I would review it, how many stars to give it, and the like.  Because when I started, the book was wordy, weighted down, and packed with excess description - so much so that I completely skipped several pages and barely skimmed others, without it affecting the story at all.  This got better, but not much, as the story progressed.  I think the author was going for a more literary feel and just went overboard.

Still, I wanted to love this book.  At the start that was nearly impossible; I've already mentioned the writing, but the characters grated too.  Jake was a pessimistic brat and a jerk, while Sara was so bubbly and jumpy that it was unrealistic.  However, when the two of them started to get along, the book became a lot better.  There were still several times I almost put the book down, and the only thing that kept me reading was the fact that I hate reviewing a book I haven't finished.  This was mostly in the first half of the book, especially the first few chapters.  There were other times I had to stop reading and was dying to go back and continue; this became my constant feeling during the last few chapters.

(Pause here to mention that I *loved* the relationship between Jake and Sara.  Except for Sara's excessive use of "shut up," but then I have friends who annoy me with that phrase too.)

The factor of whether or not this is a clean read is confusing, too.  The characters are flawed but good people, very realistic after those strange first impressions.  Sara has a dark secret, but it's not one of her own doing and it's actually a very noble act of the author to deal with such a touchy subject in literature.  Overall I think he does a great job of it, and keeps the characters' thoughts and actions true to life.  But after several great pages, a scene will have foul language - one scene in particular is just loaded.  I can understand its use in some places and wonder why it's there in others; regardless, my stance is that you can write that a character cussed without actually putting the word - keep it both clean and realistic.  There was one other 'clean' factor that bothered me, but I won't say it for spoilers.  I'll say it's more of a Christian 'clean read' problem than a general culture or target audience 'clean read' problem, and it's actually the same one problem AnnaKate and I found in the Hunger Games.  (Eerily similar, really, since the problem was created for the same reason.)

All that to say that All Things Different is a good attempt at writing a serious, literary YA work that deals with love and life, but for me fell through due to overuse of descriptions and some general Christian reader problems.  I enjoyed reading it, especially the last few chapters (which I honestly loved), but I wouldn't recommend it to many readers I know.  Therefore I give it 2.5 stars.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.

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