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So Shelly Hardcover – February 8, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

TY ROTH teaches literature and composition at both the high school and university level. He has studied the Romantic poets and enjoys teaching his students about them. He holds a Sociology degree from Xavier University and a Masters of English Literature from the University of Toledo. He lives with his family in Sandusky, Ohio, along the shores of his much-loved Lake Erie.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


It was the last day of school and the first day of summer. One of those limbo days, when you're not quite sure if you're ending or beginning. Either way, my junior year was over, and I hoped I'd never see another one like it. However, there was one more thing Gordon and I had to do before I could put the year fully to rest.

The gym was hotter than hell, but Gordon leaned back, as cool as ever, in one of the ungodly uncomfortable metal folding chairs that were arranged in a semicircle around a makeshift altar on which rested a black marble urn containing the ashes of our mutual best friend, Shelly. Gordon's plan was to steal the urn, drive to Shelly's, break into the pool shed where she'd kept her beloved boom box, shoot over to the island in one of Gordon's powerboats, and then spread her ashes while playing her favorite song from a disc she had bequeathed to me prior to her death. Not much in the way of funeral tributes, but all so Shelly.

According to Gordon, it was what she wanted, which, I know, leads to the question: Why would a healthy eighteen-year-old have thought to share her final wish at all, unless, of course, she knew her death was imminent? And if Gordon knew her demise was coming, why didn't he tell me? It seems obvious now; most things do in retrospect. But since Gordon and Shelly had been friends and neighbors for their entire lives, I figured her final wish had been the product of whimsical childhood speculation, protected by a secretly sworn pact. Shelly was a dreamer like that, full of "What if?'s" and "If only's."

Even if I had thought to ask the right questions at the appropriate times, the answers would have come too late to change the outcome. Anyway, even knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have changed a thing.

In theory, Gordon's plan was simple. In execution, it was not.

Trinity's gymnasium was packed for the early-evening wake with awkward teenage mourners--awkward, of course, because, while most present had flushed a goldfish or two or lost the occasional grandparent, few had attended a wake for someone their own age. Shelly's death was doubly aberrant, considering how extraordinarily alive she had always been--so alive that even the memory of her felt more vibrant than the breathing bodies that sat all around me. I, however, felt right at home. In just the past two years, I'd attended funerals for both of my parents, and Tom was, as I've said, not far behind.

Due to Shelly's fall-semester expulsion from Trinity, the school's administrators had hesitated to grant her father's request for the use of the gymnasium, which was the only venue large enough in all of Ogontz, Ohio, to accommodate the large outpouring of young mourners. I've learned that although there is a seemingly endless list of indiscretions that one may perform without being excommunicated from Trinity--including exposing yourself to a junior varsity cheerleader, screwing your English teacher, and stealing and consuming communion wine from the school chapel, all of which Gordon committed with relative impunity--writing a measly five-hundred-word essay on the necessity of atheism that, against all odds, gets published in the "My Turn" section of Newsweek is not on it. It was only Mr. Shelley's record of consistent and generous donations that convinced the administration to allow the wake to take place on school grounds.

But his donation, of an amount that only he, God, and Monsignor Moore (the pastor at All Saints Catholic Church) knew, was not an act of selfless grief. The public wake at Trinity was a transparent ploy by Shelly's father to keep her friends (think Gordon) away from the official funeral services. A members-of-the-family-only gathering was planned for the next evening at their home, with a funeral mass at All Saints scheduled for the morning after.

Like Gordon's, Shelly's family lived on a peninsular strip of beach-lined property that juts into Lake Erie, separating the lake from the Ogontz Bay. Locals call that strip the Strand. Seasonal residents from nearby Cleveland and Toledo, and from as far away as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Detroit, populate the majority of the sprawling lakeside mansions during the summer, but a handful of Ogontz's gentry call Acedia, a gated community on the Strand, home. The ultra-exclusive subdivision was intended to be named for Arcadia, the idyllic rural region of southern Greece, but when the wrought iron gate with the subdivision's name artistically rendered across the top arrived misspelled, no one bothered to have it corrected or to look up the meaning of "acedia," which is "spiritual or mental sloth."

Most of the "mourners" had hardly known Shelly, but it's hard to resist any chance for drama or dressing up when you're a teenager in Ogontz. And drama there was.

Shelly's disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body, washed ashore on a small Lake Erie island, had earned her the sort of attention that nothing in her lifetime ever had. Several national cable networks had sent reporters and camera crews, intrigued by what they called Shelly's "socialite" family and her connection to Gordon, but the reporters immediately lost interest when foul play was eliminated and her death was ruled an accidental drowning. (Each year, fewer than 3 percent of all deaths of teenagers between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are caused by accidental drowning.) The cameras immediately moved on to their next fatality, this one having been bled dry. (A Class IV hemorrhage, which involves the loss of more than 40 percent of a person's blood, often results in one's bleeding to death.)

Despite the whirring of my mind and the turning of my stomach, I sat relatively still and looked around me. Even with the ceiling exhaust fan humming, the humidity inside the gymnasium refused to vacate the premises, as if its stultifying presence were necessary for the somber occasion and it felt obligated to fulfill its solemn duty.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385739583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385739580
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,863,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If this doesn't win the award for best book of the year, there ought to be an investigation! So Shelley by Ty Roth is one of the best novels I have ever read. I was lucky enough to obtain an ARC of the book and finished reading it about a month ago. The story that unraveled in those pages has been haunting me ever since. Everyone that reads this book will see a little piece of themselves in one of the main characters, and the experience will most likely be one that shakes you to your core. The novel is a breath of fresh air to a YA genre that has become overblown with supernatural-type romance novels that are just so much pablum. Thank you Ty Roth for writing a YA novel with depth, intelligence, and heart that challenges the reader in ways not seen since The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird! I predict that within a year, Roth will be one of the biggest names in publishing! You heard it here first!
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Format: Hardcover
Byron and Keats are thrown together by the death of their mutual friend Shelly. Byron and Keats have never exchanged much by way of greeting and hanging out, the only thing they feel they have in common is Shelly. She has bestowed upon them the duty of stealing her ashes from her wake and bringing them to her favorite place to scatter them while playing her favorite songs. On their journey Keats and Byron recount the many memories of Shelly that they have. Interspersed through their journey Keats pens down relevant stories to help grow the characters of Byron and Shelly. This whole novel was "written" by Keats as he looks back at this journey with a boy he never really knew, except through Shelly's adoring tales of him.

This was a very interesting book. It was neat seeing Byron's misdeeds translated into the 21st century. I especially love that Byron wrote a bestselling vampire novel, which was aptly titled after a supernatural poem that he actually penned, Manfred. A vampire novel is very swoon-worthy right now, which better sets up Byron as a girl-crazed sex bomb. Ty Roth did a most excellent job penning a romantic novel about three romantics. Shelly was completely and hopelessly tragic and never saw any of the good that came from her outbursts of protest, or writing. She was certainly an entertaining character in this novel though, even though we never actually get to hear from her, she is so alive in Byron and Keats stories, that you almost forget that she has been dead this whole novel. Keats was perfectly aloof which I imagine the real Keats often was. He was very obsessed with his writing and seemed to only want to be a well-known writer. I thoroughly appreciated how much research and knowledge must have gone into penning this novel. Though as Ty Roth said of his novel; "...
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Format: Hardcover
So Shelly by Ty Roth
Delacorte Press, 2011
319 pages
YA; Contemporary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Drawing on the Romantic poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley comes a modern take on love and death.

How much do you know about those poets? Because their (well mostly Gordon Byron's) lecherous side really comes out and quite frankly shocked me. It covers up to about their eighteenth year and the acts committed largely by Gordon appalled me; it was so different from my own high school experience and disgusting to my sense of morality. And the real-life guy did pretty much the same things! I struggle with how someone could be so depraved and those elements made it difficult for me to read.

Gordon and Keats are loosely inspired by their namesakes but Shelly is actually sort of a composite of Mary and Percy Shelley as the author shares in his end note. Her premature death is the framework for the story. Gordon and Keats are two of her friends who she has charged with a final task. As they set out to complete that commission, their lives are revealed with all of the darkness and debauchery accompanying that. It covers Gordon's outsize fame and appetites, Keats's imminent death, and what would cause Shelly to kill herself.

I really enjoyed the writing and Gordon did have a magnetism for me despite everything I read about him. I wanted to keep reading and I flew through this book. Although I haven't read much about the Romantics, I think it does capture their philosophy of life and would be enjoyable for those who do like the Romantic poets a lot.

Warning: Content definitely puts this on the older side of YA.

Cover: Haunting-made me think there would be some paranormal aspects but that is untrue.
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Many things can be said about So Shelly. First and foremost, I must applaud Roth on his debut novel. As a student of literature, I have been told time and time again that great authors choose each word carefully, with meaning and purpose behind each choice. Roth displays this masterfully, with wonderful craftsmanship of his words from start to finish. While putting his verbal skills on display, Roth employs unique word choice throughout the novel. However, while some authors leave their readers in the dark with verbose language, Roth uses his to further illuminate the story to his readers. As far as the book itself goes, the highest compliment I can pay it relates in large part to my youth. As a young reader, 23, I can say that I have never before read a book that gave me so many knowing laughs, smiles, and smirks. So Shelly very accurately captures the essence of what it is like to be young, living in a socially and morally challenging world. Some may view the events of this novel or the choices made by the characters as "mature" reading for young adults, while young adults may simply view it as par for the course. Regardless of interpretation, this pull-no-punches approach to adolescent life is appreciated and respected. I eagerly await the next text from this supremely talented author.
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