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Coming Soon:
~Review: The Killing Woods
~Review: The Waiting Sky
~Review: A Certain Slant of Light
~Review: Timepiece
~Review: Infinityglass

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: Lost on Spirit River

Lost on Spirit River by Tommy Batchelor & Kim Reale (Illustrator)
Publisher: Mirror Publishing
Pub. Date: November 8th, 2010
Pages: 156
Series: Spirit River Trilogy, #1
Age Level: 8+ (MG)
Source: For review from author.

Synopsis via Goodreads

Thirteen-year-old Tony's parents are in the middle of divorce, his mother sends him to his Grandpa's along the banks of the Flint River in Southwestern Georgia. With his younger cousin Kathryn, they set out to look for a Christmas tree for the holidays, along with Grandpa's aging beagle, Sally. The three become lost in a snowstorm, which has not hit Georgia in three hundred years. Finding shelter in a hidden cave, stumbling upon Native American art. Now the adventure begins...

Oh how I hate having to do this. Especially since I just recently posted a negative review. I wanted to love this book. I truly did. Unfortunately, I found that I had too many problems with this one to fully enjoy it.

When I began reading Lost on Spirit River, I could tell Tony and Kathryn probably had great potential personality wise, but I felt like something was holding them back and hindering their personalities from really developing. Tony was very annoying in the beginning with his I-don't-need-anyone-I'm-mad-at-the-world attitude and I thought this was an element that was a bit exaggerated. He becomes more likable as the story progresses, which I was glad to see. However, I thought the dramatic emotional-self-transformation-new-outlook-on-life thing that he went through was more cliche and corny than beneficial to the plot and could have been more thoroughly crafted. Kathryn, I liked well enough and she had a pretty good sense of humor, something that Tony also eventually developed. Sadly, I didn't really feel connected to either of these characters. Something else that bugged me was how Kathryn and Tony would often use the other's name when speaking to them and would even call each other 'cousin'. I thought this was unnecessary considering that, aside from the dog, Sally, it was usually just the two of them. I have to say, I did like Sally, even if she was the dog.

The story-line for Lost on Spirit River was easily its most redeeming quality. The Native American folklore was well done, intriguing, and seemed adequately researched, not that I'm an expert. There was a nice sense of adventure and mystery weaved in as well. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that I enjoyed the plot as much as I could and should have.

The writing is what really kept everything from pulling through, for me, and I felt both the characters and plot suffered for it. First were the errors and not just a few either. There were spelling errors, capitalization errors, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, etc. Honestly, the writing read like a rough draft that had never seen proofreading or an editor. There was also the problem of points of view changing without any indication that they were about to, sometimes in the middle of the page. Those were the technical issues. I also found myself finding fault with aspects of the actual writing. I often thought that some of the descriptions were border lining on the textbook variety. There was a time when Batchelor went to describe Tony and I remember thinking, "It's like someone describing a missing person to a police officer. 'The facts ma'am, just the facts.'" There were also some comparisons that felt a bit off to me. One of which was this: '...the largest of the limbs was as big as a basketball.' Another thing, the third-person narrative felt seriously detached from the majority of the story. I'm not saying that the author, himself, was. I'm sure he feels strongly connected to what he wrote, but that was not how it came off to me, the reader. There were also some vocabulary choices that just really didn't fit for me and I thought some of the dialogue fell a bit flat. One example of a couple of the things I've mentioned above:

"Kathryn and Tony's bodies were suddenly pushed from behind by an unknown force that shoved them between two large pine tress to escape the falling treetop, which narrowly missed the two kids, preventing them from suffering major injuries."

Despite all of that, I thought Batchelor did a great job ending Lost on Spirit River. He pulled it to enough of a close that allowed it to be it's own story while also leaving me with just enough insight that I know there is more to come.

Lost on Spirit River has potential, I truly believe that. I think the fact that I didn't enjoy the plot and characters more than I did was collateral damage due to the writing. I'm still undecided on whether or not I want to continue reading this series though I can't deny that I'm curious to see if the writing improves and to see how the story continues. So, would I recommend this? I think 8 to 10 year olds could possibly enjoy this book. However, once kids hit about 11 and 12, schools and teachers start putting serious emphasis on their writing abilities and so the older MG audience are more likely to notice the writing errors. Of course, a lot of the writing problems I found could simply be fixed by having a good editor. All of that being said, mine seems to be the most negative review I've seen so who knows. Maybe you'd enjoy it more.

Characters: C-
Writing: D+
Plot: C+
Ending: B-
1st in Series: C
Illustrations: C-
Enjoyment/Likability: C-
Recommendable: C-

Overall: C-

Cover: C-


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Georgia, United States
Hello all! My name is Briana, I'm 20, and I live in the beautiful state of Georgia. I love reading and photography.

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