I feel as though I am waking up from a dream. One that, as I get more and more awake, I can remember less and less of. That’s what this book was like for me. I still am not completely sure what the conflict in the story was – why the characters did what they did. This book seems to be 269 pages of building up to one page of something finally happening. Then, The End.
There’s a very confusing prologue, to start. It’s supposedly setting up the ending of the story so the reader knows something horrible awaits. But the problem is, <spoiler, I guess> that’s the last time anything of that nature is discussed. In this volume, at least, you never find out why what happens in the prologue comes to pass. It’s not enough to get me to read the next installment for sure; it’s just extremely frustrating. Writers, you need readers. Readers, you need writers. It’s a two-way proposition, a trust of sorts that each owes the other. As a writer, you have to give enough information away to keep the reader interested and connected; as a reader, I have to believe that the writer will tell all in due time, and therefore, keep reading. There was no such contract here.
Wes is a quiet loner, the middle child of a prominent Texas family. His brother, Channing, has been missing for a few months. While at their beach house during Spring Break, Wes wanders off and meets Olivia. Supposedly from a small town in France, she charms Wes with her French-accented English and her ignorance of mobile phones, radios and movies. Wes is instantly attracted to Olivia as she is unlike any girl he has met before. The story continues with them quietly getting to know one another, and Olivia’s eventual meeting with Wes’ family. Later, it is Olivia who finds Channing and returns him to his family. Olivia moves in with Wes’ family, she enrolls in high school for the last couple of months of senior year, and they all go to prom.
About half-way through the book, readers will find out who/what Olivia really is, after reading a tediously long “letter” from the Thai gardner, Kai, who works for Wes’ family. He’s sort of a subdued Mr. Miyagi. It is basically a history lesson about Ameryth and Ameryns so you get a really detailed understanding as to the potential problems that Wes and Olivia will encounter during the rest of the novel. But nothing happens. Well, like I said, until just about the end.
I was happy to see that the main character is a male; however, once I got reading, there were so many things this boy uttered or described that seemed very out of character for a 17-year-old male high school student. Like, for example, comparing his little sister to Shirley Temple. Or saying that another boy, his best friend, is a “hot mess.” Would he really notice his girlfriend’s dress had “dainty pink rosebuds” on it? I think the book would have been better served if written in third person. And every character in a book does not need to have a name. There are around 15 people named by the third chapter, many of whom we never hear from again.
As is the case, unfortunately, with many self-published books, the grammar and word usage is not stellar. I might make a (small) joke here about the writer being homonymophobic, but it’s more that she confuses them than is afraid of them. “Pealing” instead of “peeling;” “peaked” instead of “peeked;” “site” instead of “sight;” “bazaar” instead of “bizarre;” and the unfortunate “balled” instead of “bawled.” There are also the usual suspects: the lay/lie problem; the dearth of commas; the (mis)use of apostrophes; “alot” vs “a lot;” and using “drug” instead of “dragged.” There are also many phrases that use words incorrectly, such as “I bowed cavalierly;” “I was butter in her hands” and “my tears falling on a deaf world.” And the Summerland in the title? It isn’t mentioned until page 227.
If a story is going to have a sequel, the author cannot assume that knowing she/he will find out the answers in Book 2 will be enough for the reader. You cannot write a story and chop it into three equal parts and voilà, a trilogy. I am not saying that’s what the author did here, but its what it feels like. Yes, you need an arc that goes from volume 1 through the last volume of your series, but each volume needs to have its own arc as well. Thinking of this gives me the deepest and most profound admiration for JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series. You have to have a plan.
And just a suggestion? The cover model looks like she only has one leg – which is fine, but I don’t think it was what was intended. It’s a cool photo that looks better on your poster (that has the book title beneath the picture).
2 of 5 Stars (Based on Ink and Page’s Rating System)
Genres: Young Adult Fiction Fantasy Mystery? Paranormal?
Ages: 14 and up
You might want to know: There is mild cursing, talk of sexual activity
Finding Summerland by Paige Bleu was published July 17, 2012 by CreateSpace. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review.