The Scavenger Kindle Edition
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That being said, though, I must rate this book a 3 out of 5 stars. It is most definitely not bad (and it’s no Empress Theresa, thank God for that), but it is rather amateurish in nature. Allow me to explain why.
The Scavenger makes use of multiple, shifting, first-person perspectives, with each new chapter consisting of a perspective from one of five recurring main characters. I must admit that I find this method of narrating cumbersome, though that is, in large part, due to my inexperience with it, both in writing and reading it. I’ve noted that this seems to be the go-to style of narration for a lot more people than I’d imagined, but this leads to some problems.
With multiple-perspective writing, you never get to full develop the main characters as much as you could with only one perspective. That seems to be the case with this book. To avoid spoiling the whole novel, I will say that based on what I read, only two out of the four main characters - who, incidentally, are the characters that this style of narration employs - really get any sense of development. The other two feel shoehorned in and develop marginally worse, and one of them actually felt more of a side-character, not someone whose perspective we ought to be following. This in turn made it so that I felt attached to really only to two characters rather than the main four.
Moreover, only those two really had any stakes in the plot/problem presented; that is to say, they’re the only ones who felt like they were being driven by the plot, rather than they themselves driving the plot to its finish. A plot exists outside of a character’s context and seeks to push them into situations demanding trial and tribulation. When the plot no longer actually pushes the character, one must question if either the plot or character is necessary. Regarding the above paragraph, then, one of the two least developed of the main characters fits this category to a tee: he’s not a necessary named character in the slightest. Rather, he’s a plot device, not a person affected by the plot. This, coupled with the lack of “having a stake” in the plot, makes this character forgettable and ill-rounded.
Consequently, the plot itself suffers when, as implied by the multi-shifting perspectives, it’s supposed to be tied to all of the characters presented.
Another issue I found was the strange tendency to jump away from moments of tension. There were several chapters that were building up to some sort of confrontation, “action,” or otherwise source of discordance, which, had the author used them properly, would have resulted in some satisfying “oh shit” moments for the reader. Yet the chapters cut away from fully fleshing out the tension. This is probably because the chapters are way too short anyway, with a majority having not much really happening to advance the plot. In other words, all of the tension in certain sections drained away, and I don’t think that was intended in the slightest. It’s almost as if the tension doesn’t really matter, since we will be cutting away from the character that it affects entirely and for a little while (at least until we reach their next perspective chapter). In a sense, it feels like the tension has been unintentionally sabotaged.
With chapters as short as they are, the only way I can think of that would rescue this lack of tension would be to just have pushed the word count a little more. There’s no need to end so abruptly all the time if doing so removes the tension that a reader should be feeling.
Finally, though this is much more nuanced and is more of a personal befuddlement than anything, I must raise the question of believability when addressing the romance portion of this story. It happens a bit too fast to past as realistic. While I’ve little experience in writing romance, I should think that if your characters become a couple by Chapter 4, with minimal interaction beforehand, while also disregarding the female lead’s own admission to being hesitant to trying anything remotely new (such as romance), then the romance falls flat on its head. That is not to say it’s not a bad romance; certainly, it picks up steam and ends up rather sweet at parts. However, that does not discount the fact that the romantic premise is weak from the get-go. More time could have spent flushing out why the romance was going to happen and what about the characters involved pushed them together.
Despite all that, there are moments of great writing here and there that kept the book a worthy page-turner. Once again refusing to mention any names, the character who developed the most in this story ended up being our main “main” character. While traditionally we say that the main character is always our protagonist, with several characters being protagonists in their own right, this definition is faulty; but coming to the rescue is the widely received explanation that the main character is always the person who changes the most throughout the story. That makes this character in question (unnamed, of course, to avoid spoilers) our titular main character. It’s a clever subversion of the classic “first character we see is our hero” trope. Which is partially why, to me, he becomes the strongest of the bunch.
The side characters themselves play neatly with our main cast. They serve as supporters and apostles, in some ways, appealing to their sense of right and wrong. While they certainly do not develop as much as the main characters ought to, they at least contribute well with respect to the plot. In other words, they’re very believable.
That being said, I don’t think this story had what it takes to at least be a 4 out of 5 stars for me. Not noted here are the several word formatting and punctuation errors I discovered littered throughout, nor is mentioned my concern over the fact that the chapters start off rather plain-sounding - this is not because I don’t think those points are worth mentioning, for indeed, all points of critique are, but it’s because they’re not too big of concerns to address. The biggest problems with this book, therefore, lie in how the characters developed and the speed at which the plot, characters, and issues resolved themselves. These problems could only be addressed with a careful examination of the velocity at which the work moved itself, which is itself a tricky business.
It is not a perfect book, but it is not a bad book. For a first book, it was a great start. With the advent of self-publishing, it is always a pleasure to see that the market continues to widen its access. It is no longer the duffy old English-enthusiasts who take to the online streets, but rather, it is both the high-strung professor and the simple lover of telling stories and still others who are able to take the plunge into the literary realm. I am of the mindset that once you start writing, there are only two paths you can take: stagnation, or improvement. With time, you are more likely to end up on the latter.
I truly had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep on the first night of reading!
I have already loaned the book to a friend and ordered copies for Christmas gifts.
1) It moves too fast. After knowing each other as more than random classmates for a day or two, the main teen male takes the main teen female on a second date to a BROADWAY PERFORMANCE. After a week, he asks her to prom. A week later, they're there.
2) I don't like any of the main characters. I can't empathize with them at all.
Nathan is an NYPD officer and the lead investigator of a case with laced marijuana, after a number of teen deaths.
Frank is the thirty-year-old slicer and dealer.
Samuel is a 17-year-old junior who runs for Frank. The two go back six years and Frank's sister Nickie essentially helped raise Samuel. Nickie is actually my favorite.
Catherine is a freshman whose best friend Eve grates on me (she is incredibly pushy and doesn't seem to respect Catherine's thoughts/decisions, though ends up softening in the end). Catherine later tells her mom that she's "old enough" to take care of herself...and mom just accepts it.
Excuse me? I want to reach in and bonk their heads together. I'm glad mom told Catherine that things are moving too fast, but then she lets Catherine take charge. Guilt? Or just bad parenting?
Each chapter focuses on one of the above four main characters and continues the story from their points of view.
We learn early that Nathan has a history with drug violence, Catherine's parents' divorce has affected her, and Samuel's home life is crap.
I'm glad that there is more on the teens and Frank, since they're the bigger part of the story.
I'd get really into the fast-moving story and then be jostled out by something stupid a character says or does (see some examples above).
I do really like how Catherine and Samuel don't kiss immediately, though they do exchange "I love you"s too bloody soon. Samuel is 17 and should know better, but it's the first time he felt like this.
I remember myself at 14...15....16...feeling "like that" more than once but still being stupid with hormones.
This is NOT against Willow. But *headdesk* sometimes *headdesk* teenagers *headdesk* drive me nuts. *headdesk*
Even my past teenage self! GAH
Willow wrote this when she was a teenager, and it shows, as she gets into their minds better than those of adults (though, really, Frank and Nickie are written very well. It's the parents and police that lack substance). The very end was a bit unrealistic, but stranger things have happened.
For me, the content is a 3. The writing though is a 4. I feel compelled to give 4-stars. It is a good story on the consequences of our actions...and the lies we weave ourselves in.