Life has finally eased up enough for me to write a review of So Shelly (Delacorte Press), the highly anticipated and recently released novel by Ty Roth: young-adult author, high school literature teacher and all-around good guy.
Other than the book-jacket tease about two friends swiping a drowned teen’s ashes to spread as she would have wished, and that the personas of the three main characters are based on Romantic poets Byron, Keats, Shelley and his wife Mary, I had no idea what to expect. The mention of freedom fighters and the phrase “lurid but literary,” were intriguing tidbits from the Kirkus review, but when I opened the book, I was a blank slate.
The first thing that struck me was how funny the novel is. The story is a serious one, but the way that the narrator phrases things left me rotfl. Quickly absorbed in the compelling story-line, I didn’t want to put it down while I was reading and found myself dwelling on it at odd moments after I’d finished — my favorite kind of book.
The vocabulary is enjoyably advanced, with no glaringly absent adverbs or “dumbing down” for teen readers, and I was pleased in four cases to expand my own command of the language. (It must be confessed that I’m still wondering what a “stinky pinky” is, but am pretty sure that I don’t really want to know.)
So Shelly is not for the callow, with topics such as incest (involuntary and otherwise), teen pregnancy, abortion, sexual abuse and graphic violence (not necessarily in that order). Although frequently cringe-worthy, none of it is gratuitous in nature. Some reviewers have recommended the book for ages fourteen and up, but Ty himself has said that sixteen and older is the intended readership, and I wouldn’t disagree.
Ty has mentioned a few times on his blog and in interviews that future titles might be set in the same Lake Erie locale, with a focus on minor characters from So Shelly. If so, the one I hope to see more of is Tammy Jo Hogg, the overweight but pretty girl with the good PR skills who was used and abused by Gordon. (Well, really, who wasn’t?) I want her to grow up, become successful and then leave Gordon with the broken heart.
My only concern with the novel is what seemed to be a somewhat casual view of suicide. At the time of our interview, Ty was confident that modern teens are sophisticated enough to deal with the content of the book, and that to think otherwise is an insult to the reader. I hope he’s right. Other than that, great book.
Layinda’s Blog Rating: ¶¶¶¶¶ (But only because I’m saving the 5¶ for Jim and Jack. 😉 )
Note: Although I am acquainted with Mr. Roth, this is an unsolicited review, and I paid for my own copy of So Shelly. Actually, two copies. Unwilling to sully my signed-by-the-author first edition, I also purchased the Kindle version.