Tape by Steven Camden
Tape is a story of past and present; of love and loss; of friendship and family. It holds such promise but the pages don’t contain very much and it becomes one of those books that you just want to finish and get to the end rather than savour the story and enjoy each scene. The idea of a cassette tape connecting two different generations is great but it feels like the story hinges on this and as a result, it dissolves into a very basic and boring plot. There was nothing compelling me to read to the end. The chapter endings and actual conclusion is clichéd. It’s not strong enough to compete in the YA market as a love story. It becomes a sort of novel idea and less of a story.
The third-person narration is very basic. I would have liked to see first-person narration from Ameliah’s and Ryan’s points of view. The story would have felt more personal and maybe then, we would have felt more character coming through in the narrative voice. It’s not bad and it’s not good. It’s middle-of-the-road and undercuts the characterization.
I struggled with the characters. There wasn’t one character I felt like I could relate to or like. There was something missing – a spark of life – from each of the characters that prevented them from leaping off the page and coming to life. Ameliah was bland. Ryan was very vanilla – much like his daughter. I guess the real issue was that they all felt like caricatures; characters that were all cut from the same mould.
Quality of Writing: 7/20
There was nothing spectacular about the writing. It was average with nothing memorable to hold on to. I wanted something personal or poetic and what I got instead was a sort of formulaic writing style that bored me five pages in. The over-reliance on sight didn’t help and a change-up in the sensory detail would have been a welcome breath of fresh air.
There were little clues to locations but I wanted more detail filtered into the story, anchoring us in a finite place. At times, it felt like we could have been anywhere. Ryan’s and Eve’s back gardens are supposed to be these special places but there was nothing that really made them special. It would have been nice to see or smell something that linked the places together and reminded him of Eve.
Comparative Literature: 3/10
Apart from the cassette tape, there is nothing new here. The characters are flat. The story is dull. The narration is basic. It doesn’t compare to other YA romances. Marie Lu’s Prodigy trilogy puts a twist on the romance element by pitting her two characters together (June falling in love with, and hunting down her brother’s killer, Day). Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series demonstrates first-rate world-building and a rollercoaster romance that oscillates between taboo and temptation. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars delivers an emotional suckerpunch as his story deals with the realities of cancer and romance between two funny and relatable characters.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Characters that felt like they’d been brought to life with cake cutters
- Locations that felt like they could have been anywhere in England
- A nice idea but impossible to lose yourself in the story
Overall Score: 40/100
Books You May Also Like:
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg – if you want a story about finding love in the most unexpected of places
The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting by Holly Bourne – if you’re after that creative twist that Tape teases
The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss – an emotional story of past and present; of coming to terms with maternal loss and moving forwards