Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: New Town Soul by Dermot Bolger


Bad blogger, blah. I know. I haven't had time to pee, never mind polish lately. I do have some swatches for you, but I'll save them for their own post later on in the week. For now, I have a book review - it's New Town Soul by Dermot Bolger.


First, as usual, here's the back cover spiel:

Shane is Joey's new best friend, with a personality for every occasion and a strange sense of recklessness. Joey longs to get close to Geraldine, but she won't have anything to do with him while Shane is around. Is Geraldine right to suspect that Shane is weaving a net of evil around them? And who is the strange old man who seems to know more about Shane than anyone? What secret will Joey unearth in a derelict house in Blackrock? 

New Town Soul is a supernatural thriller in a very real world - it is about the freedom of being young and the enslavement of being immortal.

Dermot Bolger is an Irish author, playwright & poet. Published in 2010, this was Bolger's first foray into teen fiction. I use that term very loosely, because I didn't find this in any way juvenile or aimed strictly at teenagers. As a stand-alone novel, I found it completely enthralling and read the entire thing in one sitting (and I'm definitely not a teenager).

A supernatural thriller set in Blackrock in modern times, the story is mainly told from the point of Joey Kilmichael, a young lad who has recently changed schools due to being bullied for following in his late father's path by writing and singing his own songs. When Joey arrives at his new school (having done all the prerequisite facebook stalking beforehand to find out what his new classmates are like) he has already decided that there will be nobody there who shares his interests and has all but dismissed everyone. On his first day there, however,  his attention is turned to two people - shy, beautiful Geraldine, who intrigues him instantly, and wild, rebellious Shane, who can command the attention of anyone in the room.

Joey befriends both Shane and Geraldine, but has very different friendships with both. Shane brings out Joey's wild side, encouraging him to have new experiences and face his fears. Geraldine's friendship is more of a deeper, thoughtful one. Geraldine confides in Joey and tells him some information about previous experiences with Shane, and explains why she is less than enamoured with him anymore. As time goes on, Joey becomes more and more suspicious of Shane, wondering if his initial desire to be considered his quiet sidekick was misplaced. The appearance of strange old man Thomas doesn't help - why does he seem to have an unquenchable interest in Shane and Geraldine?

As mentioned, the book is set in Blackrock - now I'm not from Dublin, but I was drawn into it while reading this. Mentions of Bull Island, the Hellfire Club and other instantly recognisable local landmarks make this a very easy story to read. Some of the more supernatural suggestions in the book were ludicrous but yet I still didn't find the book too fantastical to enjoy. Anyone familiar with the legends and stories surrounding the infamous Hellfire Club will have heard of experiences and tales not too dissimilar to some here, which grounds the story in a way and stops it from crossing over into the ridiculous.

By page 40, I did have a fair idea that I'd figured out what the big secret was (and I was right) but I still didn't have a notion how it was going to pan out. The book is written in short, snappy chapters, each one focused on one of the main characters. Only Joey's chapters are written in the first person, and Dermot Bolger did a fantastic job of writing from the POV of a 16-year-old boy.

I'm really glad I picked this book up in the library - being 100% honest if I'd seen it in the teen fiction section I probably wouldn't have gone near it, purely based on that label. It's a fantastic book, and deserves to be read without any labels. It's almost a modern-day teenage ghost story - but the ghost is one we'll all have to face at one time or another, our own mortality. Dermot Bolger doesn't treat his readers like children, he makes us use our imaginations and question our darkest desires and wishes.

Contains no swearing, no sex, mild violence, no drug use, minor alchohol references, some horror.

I'm delighted I took a chance on it, and I'll definitely keep an eye out for more of Dermot Bolger's work.


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