Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shelter Me by Alex McAulay

Published 2009.

Maggie Leigh just wants to be a normal teenager, but when German bombs tear apart London during World War II, her ultra-religious mother sees the destruction as divine punishment. She sends Maggie to a remote boarding school in coastal Wales, supposedly to keep her safe, but also to keep her in line. The school is creepy, the headmistress is a lunatic, and the students range from spoiled rich girls to speechless trauma victims. But when a tragic accident happens on the beach, Maggie and three friends are forced to flee the school, plunging into the nightmarish world of Europe during wartime. Now every decision Maggie makes is fraught with danger, and living to see another day depends on how quickly she can thing and act . . . and how far she's willing to go. (book back blurb)

This was one of those books that I liked enough to keep reading until the end but when I got to the end, I was less than thrilled. Especially after finding that deus ex machina in the last chapter. But I'll get to that in a second.

I wasn't thrilled with the writing. I didn't connect with any of the characters, especially Maggie, which isn't a good position to be in. Plus I felt like this American author kept constantly trying to assert how much he knew about British culture that little drops like Lucozade and random colloquialisms felt contrived. They didn't blend in with the scenery. Plus there were so many of them that eventually I felt like I was getting slapped in the face by them. I get it, dude. You know about British culture. Congratulations. Let's move on.

I liked the premise. There isn't much that turns me away about the European theater of World War II so that was an automatic hook. But a girl getting sent to live with bat shit crazy nuns because her mother's insane? Yup, I'm interested. But the leaps of faith I kept having to make as I read just got larger and larger to the point where I just couldn't jump that far anymore. There were so many "twists" that Maggie should have been dizzy by the end of the book. The thing is, one twist I could suspend my disbelief for but the second had me going 'are you serious?" It was just so implausible for the relatively same twist to happen twice to the same person that I just couldn't swallow it.

And the ending? Super effing cheated. HERE THEY COME TO SAVE THE DAY! Let's start with the definition of a deus ex machina -

a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.

Can also double as a *headdesk*. All of a sudden Maggie's in yet another impossible situation and enter the DEM to kill it all dead. For serious, in the last chapter everything resolved itself all nice-like by an impossibility. I hate DEMs. I invest all this time into the book. Despite the crazy implausible twists, I was sucked into it, especially towards the end because it really did look like Maggie was backed up against a wall. I was reading faster and faster and faster until I was met with massive disappointment as the last chapter was wrapped up in a pretty pink bow. Boo. What the hell's the point?

I wouldn't recommend this book for the DEM ending alone. Even if you like the rest, the ending will be a killer. You just feel so cheated when something like that happens. I did enjoy it up until then. Not for the writing because there was nothing all that great with that. The words got me from one end of the page to the other. That's about it. But the concept and the plot and the WWII aspect all had me hooked in. Just be warned if you do pick up this book. The ending is a MAJOR disappointment. In my opinion to the point where it kills whatever joy I garnered from the rest of the book.

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