A Tale of Escape
Reviewed by: Nicole DeVincentis
Cover/Title: The cover is definitely eye catching, and I love how the soft browns blend with the girl’s skin. I haven’t read far enough to determine the significance of what looks like a mask in the center, but I like how it connects the the top and bottom images. The latter of which provokes curiosity for the reader, and I especially like the dimensions. The male figure going into a long corridor acts like a vortex, and just draws you right into the hallway with him. The few suggestions that I have are to either enlarge the subtitle and the name at the bottom, or change the color. The smaller font is a little hard to read. Also, the mask seems to be off center by a space or two from the left. Other than that, the cover is aesthetically pleasing and sparks an acute interest in readers.
Summary/Synopsis: Short, but informative. The description accurately portrays Portia’s (our protagonist) persona and struggle throughout the story, and leaves us wondering what occurs between her and Javier. Questions immediately populate about his “dark past” and how that affects Portia now. The sentences may be a little long, so it might be beneficial to shorten them. For example, the sentence in the middle, which takes up about four lines, can definitely be cut into two.
Grammar/Structure: Grammar is exemplary, and it’s clear that the author has a firm grasp on English grammar and an extensive vocabulary. As far as punctuation, there were a few inconsistencies. For example, whenever mentioning another character, but in the middle of a sentence, commas should be on either side of the character’s name. (e.g. “in regard to my ex-boyfriend, Jordan Daniels, and his current”). Going back to long sentences, in the first chapter, there is a lengthy sentence that starts with “The conversation behind me” that runs about five lines and includes several parenthetical statements. It’s a little long-winded and can be slightly confusing, and splitting it into two sentences might help. That said, the author’s language and voice throughout the story is poetic and has an even flow, which attests to the author’s outstanding writing skills.
Vocabulary/Descriptions: It’s evident that the author possesses quite an extensive vocabulary, and utilizes it to the best of her ability. I noticed quite a variety of verbs and adjectives and was pleased to note that she rarely used the same word twice. Her ability to weave together phrases like “wavy-haired loner” and “dutifully attached” that just roll off the tongue is astounding. As far as descriptions go, I feel like we get a good grip on every character except Portia. We get little hints with her hair and skin color, but for other characters we get things like body shape, hair length, clothing style, etc. I think we need a little more about her, especially since she’s our protagonist and we hear the story through her POV. We need to feel like we’re seeing the story through her eyes, and that might be difficult if we can’t see her clearly. That said, the author does well to appeal to our senses and provide vivid details for the setting, offering phrases like “musty, mothball smelling charter bus” and “populated flagstone streets.” Her inventive vocabulary helps entrance readers into the tale, and it’s magnificent.
Pace/Character Development: In the beginning of the story, it seems to take a bit for us to really “get anywhere.” Meaning that the protagonist spends a lot of time reflecting and giving us general background information about her school, friends, teacher, and overall, her life at boarding school. What I like about the beginning is that the story started in the middle of the school field trip, which is a great way to rein readers in, but we get so much internal dialogue that instead of plopping right into the story, we seem stuck. The same goes with the second chapter, which, as well-written as it is, it’s basically background information on Portia’s and the rest of her friends’ lives and how they grew up as “Army brats.” As helpful as this information is, it’s best to slip it in at various parts of the story, so readers don’t lose focus. Nevertheless, the quality of information gives us a very vivid picture of each character. Drew is awkward and clueless, Caylee is obsessive and vulgar, Jordan is misogynistic and narcissistic, and we have Portia at the center trying to balance the pressure and stress of it all. We immediately get a feel for these characters and it’s like we’ve known them for much longer than we actually have. The author clearly has a flair for character personification.
What I Liked Most: I’ve noted before how lyrical I think the author’s voice is and I just want to reiterate it here. The language she uses is fluid and it’s almost like we’re in the protagonist’s mind, thinking what she’s thinking. Going off of that, I have to wonder if she’s also a poet. The poem after chapter two absolutely gave me chills to read. I can also tell that the author has a knack for cliffhangers. She leaves every chapter in just the right spot to leave us eagerly flipping to the next page.
Concluding Thoughts: The very beginning sentence was a brilliant way to open. It’s also very relatable, as I’m sure many readers can say they’ve thought the same. By the way, “Hey Ma” is one of my favorite songs, so points for that!:) I love the level of anticipation and suspense with which the author ends each chapter. It’s a sure way to make me flip to the next page. Also, the level of mystique and utter fascination that surrounds the boy in the museum is phenomenal. The hints of danger we get from his language conflicts with his demeanor and teasing when he first meets Portia. There’s something unmistakably inviting about him at the same time our senses tell us he’s dangerous. As we learn more about him, we’re only more intrigued. I think character development is a major strength for the author, among other things, but I especially notice how real her characters seem. It helps further pull me into the story, and feel like I’m experiencing it rather than reading it. Brilliant work in this story, and I would be quick to recommend it to readers.