Tape by Steven Camden: Book Review

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Steven Camden’s Tape was an enjoyable, easy read.

Its structure of moving between two time zones, from Ryan’s point of view in 1993 to Ameliah’s in  2013 worked well, especially when, as the story progressed, the connection between the two thirteen year-olds became more and more attuned. Sometimes this connection becomes confusing when Ryan and Ameliah share similar experiences – such moments made me feel as though the pair were about to meet in person when they’re years apart – but most of the time the narrative thread worked. It’s not a complex story and it’s a bit predictable, but predictable in the way that makes you think yes, I knew it! A small victory for the reader.

The characters are strong enough to want to continue the story and see what happens. I didn’t feel particularly connected to Ameliah and thought her character could have been branched out a bit more. In saying that, I really enjoyed her fascination with the tapes she finds of her mother’s in her Nan’s house and her suspicion of Joe, a strange man who appears out of nowhere and looks oddly familiar. I also liked her brief, but sweet, love story. Like Ameliah’s Nan says, ‘Everyone wants a fairy tale’ and Ameliah’s is definitely blooming in this novel.

Ryan’s part of the book was very enjoyable. I especially liked his bantering/shifty relationship with his stepbrother Nathan, who actually became my favourite character by the end of the novel for reasons I can’t say without giving the plot away. Ryan is very likeable and his crush on Eve is sweet. Plus, Ryan and Eve re-confirmed for me the importance of the universe and its meddling ways. Perhaps a bit hokey-pokey, but something I am keen to believe in. Fate, and all that.

I also enjoyed the correlation of themes in the novel between Ryan and Ameliah – particularly of death and insecurity. While I don’t think the novel goes particularly deep into those themes, it does touch on them in a subtle way that is still meaningful.

I will say that I feel this book is probably better for a younger audience than those my age, as the story touches on a range of thirteen year old problems rather than late-teen/early 20’s issues. Still, Camden does have fun with language, and there are some great sentences and descriptions. It’s a fine book and still enjoyable for any age, really. If you’re in need of an easy read before bed after a long day at work, this is a nice book to wind down to and it definitely leaves you with a positive message.

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