How can a novel that is well written so utterly fail? It’s clear the author has talent but being able to put words onto the page is not enough. The first and foremost problem with this novel is that the characters are all cliché. There is the teacher who sparks a slacker’s interest, a mother who loves him but plays no significant role in the protagonist’s life. Decker even stoops to include a “magical negro” as a secondary character. Even his friends are stereotypes—with Jeff meant to be a comic foil to Martin’s overwrought seriousness but offering no humor to inspire the reader to laugh and Holly being moody and obvious and teasing all at once.
But worse is that the author chose to tell the story through Martin Henry’s first person voice, a voice that never sounds true. I have never met an adolescent, even the most well-read and erudite teenager, use the word “nigh” except in a quote or to be intentionally cliché. Decker, however, is not being ironic and he creates a character that is not the least bit provocative. The only character who offers anything provocative is Holly, who reveals something towards the end of the novel that makes it evident Decker is telling the wrong story.
The only story here is Holly’s so one has to wonder why Decker chose to tell Martin’s story at all. Had she been telling her story, the need for the too many clichés would have been avoided, the emotional tension she is supposed to present for Henry would have been fully realized, and the moment in which she finally makes a confession to him would be more impactful.
I was disappointed, increasingly so as the promise set up by the author is never fulfilled. Thankfully, it’s a quick read, a distraction. At best, this is a summer novel, nothing but fluff. Holly’s story . . . well, it’s not fluffy; it has teeth and would bite deep, if only it had been told.