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Quite average 'coming-of-age' tale for teenagers
on 19 May 2006
Like so many, I was enthralled by Pullman's work in the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy (gosh, even though I can't bear that collective title) - this is the only other of his novels I have read that didn't come under the banner of the Lyra/William saga (there was also a spin-off called 'Lyra's Oxford' which I remember enjoying). I haven't read him since, mostly because I didn't want to be further put off by his writing - and so, I thought it would be good to have a less complimentary review on this page to balance it out.
The book is a basic teenage/'young adult' first-love (or lust?) story, although having said that, I haven't read anything else aimed at this market. I borrowed this short novel from a library, and was suitably glad that I didn't buy it; while being a decent enough read, it is mostly cold - even the vaguely romantic scenes are delivered emotionlessly. I remember (it was a while ago) the feeling that Pullman was rattling through the plot, avoiding detail or description, which wasn't a favourable approach for a story of this kind. Also, the 'intriguing' plotting towards the end (after the relationship portion) was quite bland - not that the events themselves were uninteresting, more so that the writing engendered little suspense.
I think this was Pullman's first novel - forgive me if I am incorrect - and therefore I imagine he was still finding his feet in fiction before his truly extraordinary work, like 'His Dark Materials'. If you are interested in Pullman, after his magnum opus, you could try this novel for something a little different - but I wouldn't recommend purchasing it. See if they have it in your library, or don't bother.