The Frog Blog
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Review: "Loving In Time" by A.E. Kirk
Rating: 3* out of 5.
I received an e-copy in exchange for a review for this book.
“Loving In Time” is a loose re-telling of the story of Helen of Sparta in the modern world. A seemingly normal school girl gets visits from mysterious boys who seem to know more about her than they let on, and what unfolds is a story of self-discovery. This is a review after reading approximately a third of the book.
Helen is an entertaining main character whose thoughts are fairly typical for a young teen whose world is limited to normal social activities and school. Her relationship with her unpredictable, rambunctious best friend, Paris, is very sweet and relatable, as are the troubles and arguments that come along with being a teen. I feel the author has captured the essence of teenager-hood well with their hyperactive energetic personalities and liveliness.
The story flows well most of the time, although a bit slow for my taste and aside from the odd sticky sentences and over-telling of prose. There are no apparent information overload – a lot of backstory is given through dialogue between characters, which in my opinion is an excellent way to build the world for the reader – or noticeable inconsistencies aside from one so far. There was an incident where Helen walks out of her history class when wrongly reprimanded by the teacher. Since the beginning of the story, she has been shown as a timid girl – tries to be invisible, shy around others, unable to stand up to Paris, trembles during public speeches, mortified when put in the limelight – so I found it very strange she would have the courage to walk out of the class, particularly as there was no mention of her being angry at being wronged, only embarrassed, and no indication of any impulsivity in her personality. On top, I’m not actually quite sure Helen is ‘interesting’ enough of a main character, as she shows very little interest in the mysterious boys and their mysterious hints at what they know for about six to seven chapters. Her reaction seem to not deviate from a disinterested “Ah, well” despite all the oddities in the boys until the submarine library scene and a little later on when she was actually attacked in her own home. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, I feel the flow could be quicker, because despite being a third of the way through the book, I still haven’t come across the main conflict of the book or the price of her actions/failures and I haven’t really found myself sympathetic for Helen’s cause – whatever that may be.
I feel the writer has a talent for capturing emotions. From Paris’s “in your face” and carefree persona to when Helen regains her memories, the emotive side of the prose were quite realistic and intense. After Helen realises who she was, her thoughts and speech matured noticeably as she recalled her life from centuries ago: a sharp contrast to her childish voice from before. This subtle change leads me to believe she also regained the wisdom of her multiple lifetimes before the current one and I think it’s well-delivered.
Aside from lively Paris, however, I feel there is a certain individuality and significance that is lacking in most of the other supporting characters. Seven boys show up by the point I’m at in the book, and, to me, they have no differentiating features. Even when Marcus and Gus first show up, aside from being the “mysterious boys”, their manner of speech and personalities don’t set them apart from each other and their roles are still unclear. The latter is the same for Paris, whose role was hinted to be significant in the beginning in that Helen comments on how compatible and close they were, as well as the significance of their names, and yet after Paris disappears within two or three chapters, she has yet to reappear or even be mentioned. This seems to suggest the story isn’t quite starting at the inciting incident, when the conflict begins, as the story starts with the friendship of Paris and Helen on a typical school day, instead of when Marcus and Gus shows up and strange things begin to happen to Helen.
In terms of the actual language side of the writing, there are consistent dialogue and prose punctuation mistakes that run throughout the book and overuse of dialogue tags (particularly “mumbled” and “cringed” – the latter is not spoken verb) and adverbs, all of which I feel detracted from the professionalism of a published book and the latter contributes to the over-telling. The shouting scenes also overuse capital letters to the point where it makes difficult reading. For a lot of readers, I’m sure this aren’t big problems and Helen’s charming storytelling voice probably can compensate, but for me personally it jars the reading experience. And although perhaps a nit-picking point, I found it strange when Helen justifies her love of biology with liking how chemical reactions worked – I would have thought it would either be her loving biology because she liked seeing the anatomy of the boy’s injury and subsequent infection back in science class, or she loves chemistry because she likes seeing how the acid reacts to skin. Similarly, another strange situation was when she was thinking of what chemicals could induce such pain and arrived at the conclusion of PTSD, which is not a chemical but a medical condition, and nowadays more often not actually related to wars – although considering the intense pain she was in at that moment in time, it was even stranger she would have the mental capacity to even come up with these thoughts in the first place.
The story, told through first person, definitely has its charms and that is important to hook in readers. Having said that, the lack of significant events as far as a third of the way through the book and the consistent language errors that run through it – the latter of which shouldn’t be present in a published book – do detract from the enjoyment of the book for me. Certain characters, such as Helen and Paris, are interesting with their own charm (although Helen’s personality is a little inconsistent in my opinion) but in contrast the supporting characters are comparably superficial and lacking.
"Loving In Time" is on sale for 99p for all UK Kindle customers for one day only (13/7/2014) here.