Shell - review
Paula is developing into quite a name in edge of the seat gripping and beyond up to the minute thrillers with real emotional depth.
As she drops a huge reference into this book when the pupils are asked about Mary Shelley and why did she write Frankenstein, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to suggest that is a loaded question, I'm sure Paula knows a lot about Shelley as I'm pretty sure that is the inpsiration for this wonderful book, even the title 'Shell' leads suggested thinking.
So, what would we do....
If we had the power of creation and over life and death?
These are powerful topics for discussion, they are handled superbly by Paula in this groundbreaking book, she has been a rising star for a while now and is collecting awards and nominations like an influencer gets hits online. But, her status is gold starred not a tick of ether.
She has written this monumental book and it deserves every success and discussion, that's the tricky bit, because you need to read it to openly discuss it... so DO!
She has set the book in Houston and yet still it feels like it's 'here' it's fast paced, full of tension and suspense and full of brilliant characters and situations for them to deal with. It has a real modernity about how far we are pushing medicine and the ethics of choice, whether by informed consent or subverted by personal gain or pain.
What Paula does best is make it easy to follow, but she also adds some very deep thinking and real emotional depth, her characters are superbly written, in this book, our main character is a multifaceted enigma of divisions, she wants to be friends with the past as well as the present, she sees things uniquely from more than one set of eyes and has to deal with unimaginable voice sin her head.
Lucy/Renee is a really clever split personality, both in the psychological sense but also physical, little nuanced touches such as writing left handed when she can write right handed, or is it she has to write right handed when she wants to write left handed.
You'll get the point when you read the book...
There are many layers here, choices both internally and externally that will affect so many people, some who know more than others, some who want to know and may never find out.
Lucy is dying, she may have days, there is a choice to be made about her chances of a future, it's a decision she never gets to make. Renee has to accept so much without being able to make almost any choices, but she has so much that perhaps tantalisingly would keep her in the place she has ended up in. Seemingly she has everything a teenager could want, even a flashy car for her 17th birthday. She craves a best friend and the scenes with Mak highlight so much of what modern life in a school and friendship groups has to be analysed about.
I like the lack of reliance on the internet, it is used, but not as a major plot device, that is refreshing as I personally feel we are becoming sucked into a disbelief of it's ability to show and tell us nothing but take up so much time. What does work in this book is good old fashioned thinking and it is very well done, we have the internal logic of Renee fighting her demons and still trying to think about what she wants and how to achieve it. Her resilience and inner strength is superb.
As a creator did Victor do the right thing? did he actually achieve a creation or was it simply a reanimation?
In Paula's book we have Dr Leo Radnor and he seemingly has the power to take the very essence of a mind and maybe soul and transpose it into a shell of a body 'found for use', I'm reminded of Burke and Hare a little too. Does he truly become a creator?
The glimpses of stem cell and other wonderful advance sin medicine are used just enough to intrigue and entice the reader without dwelling too much on the technicalities, it works really well, we can always read later.
The detective element of the book is thoroughly believable and has none of the 'that wouldn't ever happen' which always spoils books for me.
I agree we want some element of fantasy in a novel, but the ones that work best are the ones where you do feel you could be there and dealing with the situation. Paula has developed a razor sharp ability to purvey feelings from many characters, we get everyone's views put forward without any leanings to favour anyone particularly.
I'd hope anyone reading this book will get that it is of the very moment, it could even be ahead of many others, we are entering a period where many parents will have choices to make over life and death and doctors and researchers have to decide on their ethics of whether we push the boundaries or keep barriers to certain developments, after all Mengeles was quite into looking into genetics in the 40s but was he ethical?
The glimpses of American college and teen life are beautifully done, Paula has the ability to write within this setting and still keeps her Britishness in place, it's really well done. The scenes with friendship groups and the angst that Renee constantly feels over many difficult issues that will have big effects are done superbly. She has her moments of doubt and the subtle way they are hidden in plain site are excellent.
The turmoil of the parents is handled well, in so many YA books we don't get active adults, here we do and they add to the plot, I feel more authors could use adults more, they are a great counterbalance of views and actions against the teen protagonists.
The subtle use of recognition by all the senses is well done, I especially like the stable scenes and their consequences.
This book is both so up-to date but also so knowing of where it's come from, I hope Paula always pushes the boundaries and just keeps bringing stories with depth, humanity and real characters to life, she has become a creator, but has no fear over her ethics or morals, they are exalted by a literary oath of decency.
I'd highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to not just coast through a Teen/YA book about life, it's about so much more, it's about choice, belief and the ability to deal with difficult situations.
Truly from Prometheus to Shelley we have always had decisions about what makes life and how and when death happens, there are always Victors and Burkes and Hares, here they are blended into normality, perhaps they always were. There isn't an obvious Monster here or a Creature, there are only beautifully made people and they have hearts and souls aplenty.
To put an idea forward, can some of you share more on Twitter etc, we are all meant to be into 'books' and associated 'culture' rather than just plugging links to amaCON can we start plugging reality, even if it's via the web...
We are taking Paula to several schools we should have a few signed books left, if you get this post soon you can order, we've New Boy and a few Bloodtracks too, sadly Celia Frost has gone to RP.
We don't have a 'shell' to pay for anymore so we can be proactive on price... £6 inc delivery if you get in touch....
be quick because I expect to sell lots of these superb books.