Anything That Isn’t This by Chris Priestley
Thank You to Hot Key, Five Mile and Mr Priestley for my review copy.
A KAFKA-ESQUE NIGHTMARE OF A STORY… ABOUT LOVE
Seventeen-year-old Frank Palp lives in a grim little apartment, in a grim little building, in an exceedingly grim (and rather large) city. Cobbled streets and near-destroyed bridges lead one through Old Town and Old New Town, and war-damaged houses stand alongside post-war characterless, concrete hutches. Most people walk hunched over, a habit from avoiding snipers, but others are proud to stand tall and make the world take notice . . . This is a city full of contradictions, and Frank is no exception.
He mostly hates his life, he definitely hates the ludicrous city he is forced to live in and he absolutely with complete certainty hates the idiots he’s surrounded by . . . and yet he is in love. A love so pure and sparkling and colourful, Frank feels sure it is ‘meant to be’. His love is a reward for all the terrible grey that he is surrounded by – which would be great, if the girl in question knew he existed. And then one day, the perfect sign lands in his lap. A message, in a bottle. A wish, for ‘anything that isn’t this’. The girl who wrote this is surely his soulmate – and now he just needs to find her.
A striking, compelling thriller combined with a tender, moving love story from the award-winning and critically-acclaimed author of UNCLE MONTAGUE’S TALES OF TERROR.
* * * * **** My Thoughts **** * * * *
The first quarter of the book I was thinking; hmmmm I’m not feeling this. At page 110 it finally looked like things might be starting to become more engaging and interesting. If I had been reading this as a book I borrowed from the library, I would have given up five, maybe seven chapters in. But as I was given this book to review I pushed through. I’m glad I did, obviously, hello my three star rating. But damn. The whole book is 468 pages. The last 50% is what I really liked. I think if the first 50% was condensed, say cut down by a hundred pages, it would make it spectacular, maybe even a five-star standout.
The Good: We see Frank, the POV character, grow from a self-absorbed teenager to a caring young man. In the end we get some hope and love come shining through the story (for frank and his girl at least).
The Bad: The book is rather depressing and It is really SLOW to take off. Nobody other than Frank and his love interest get to go anywhere. His sister’s life will be better thanks to Franks actions, but she’s still stuck in shit town, along with all the other oppressed people.
The book is listed as for 12 and up. Frank starts the story as a 17-year-old leaving school, fighting with his inner demons, not wanting to turn into his father, not wanting his soul to be taken away by the nine to five drawl, not wanting to become an adult. A 12-year-old would not get any of this. Give this to kids in their final year at high school, that’s who will click with it. Give it to the adults that can still remember how it felt to be those lost teenagers. I think this book could create a huge following, if put in front of the right audience.
About the Author:
Chris Priestly lives in Cambridge with his wife and son where he writes, draws, paints, dreams and doodles (not necessarily in that order). Chris worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for twenty years, working mainly for magazines & newspapers (these include The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal) before becoming a writer.
Chris has been a published author since 2000. He has written several books for children & young-adults, both fiction and non-fiction, and has been nominated for many awards including the Edgar Awards, the UKLA Children’s Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. In recent years he has predominantly been writing horror.