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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'This Adventure Ends' by Emma Mills

From the BLURB:

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

‘This Adventure Ends’ was the 2016 contemporary young adult novel by Emma Mills.

This was a really interesting book … one of those books that while you’re reading you really want to know what happens next, but at the end you can’t really recall what the actual plot was, only that you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Ostensibly it’s about a young girl called Sloane whose father is a Nicholas Sparks-esque author of tragi-romance and currently going through a writing slump. To help spark her father’s creativity again, Sloane, her mother, and little sister all move with him from New York to Florida in the hopes it will get the creative juices flowing. The move is really neither here nor there for Sloane, who has never formed truly meaningful attachments to anyone outside her immediate family … but then she finds herself the reluctant attendant of a house party with her new classmates, and sticking up for one called Gabe when a bully boy jock gets in his face.

From there, Sloane becomes the new pet friendship project of Gabe’s twin Vera (a social media sensation) and their friends Aubrey, Remy and Frank. When Sloane discovers that the twins’ artist mother recently passed away and that their new (pregnant) stepmother accidentally sold Gabe’s favourite painting of hers to a local art gallery, Sloane sets off on a mission to retrieve it.

This is not the book to read if contemporary fiction bores you to tears. But if you love the in’s and out’s of daily life and putting your emotions and typical teen dramas under the microscope, you’ll love this.

And while I did indeed enjoy the unfolding, I can’t help but feel this book lacked some necessary oomph. A lot of it reminded me of ‘How to Say Goodbye in Robot’ by Natalie Standiford, a lot of which was this really lovely meandering through quirky and off-kilter teen lives, but that eventually ratcheted up to a reveal and heavy hearted finale. In that sense too, ‘This Adventure Ends’ is like the days before in John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’, where it starts off unfolding in this very charming but lackadaisical chronological order until the middle sparks an entirely new trajectory … likewise ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky which is also up there for being very astute contemporary teen fiction, until the denouement starts picking at different wounds. And all these books – contemporary teen fiction – are throwbacks to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger, which to a certain point is also just a meandering stream of consciousness and encounters until it reaches a zenith of purpose and underlining meaning … and I think that’s what ‘This Adventure Ends’ was missing. A pack-a-punch denouement. True meaning.

There are even a few random threads of story established that go nowhere – like Sloane getting a job at a deli working with Gabe. There are pages establishing this, and then we never see her or Gabe at work again. Likewise, Vera’s social-media instagram fame is set-up as a somewhat crucial aspect of her character, but then it falls away. And I think these are two examples of a symptom of contemporary fiction that lacks real direction or message.

FanFiction also plays a role in this – as Sloane’s father gets hooked on a teen werewolf TV show and the fic that others writer for it. But – again – this doesn’t really go anywhere truly meaningful to entirely warrant its mention.

Still, I can’t deny that I did enjoy this book. Mills has a very true and candid way of writing. Her voice and dialogue work is particularly commendable;

“Everyone should have punched-in-the-face-for kinds of friends. Everyone should have … you know. Like the people you call when you need to hide the body.” 
“Why is there a body?” 
“If there was a body. Hypothetically.” 
“I’d like to avoid all forms of murder, including hypothetical.” 
He lets out a breath of laughter, and then: “I think everyone has it in them.” 
“Hypothetical murder?” 
“No. That kind of friendship. When they meet the right people. I think anyone can have that kind of friend or … be that kind of friend.” He looks off down the street. “Especially you. I think you’re a hide-the-body friend.”

… But I do look forward to reading a work of hers that has a real message. Something to say, when she’s so very capable of saying it so well.


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