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Tape Hardcover – September 23, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Ameliah and Ryan are two English teens who have a lot in common. Both of them have recently experienced the loss of their parents and both are obsessed with cassette tapes. Ameliah is desperate to remain connected to her parents, and knows that they loved music, so she is trying to listen to all of their old favorites. Ryan is recording tapes so he can feel close to his mother. Ryan's world is changing fast and it's getting harder for him to recall what made his mother so special. He's having a hard time getting along with his new stepbrother and his father is preoccupied with his new marriage. On one particularly difficult day, Ryan is recording a new tape and hears a voice talk back to him. As Ameliah records a tape, she also hears a stranger's voice talking to her through her ancient tape player. After this fortuitous meeting, Ryan's and Ameliah's stories of love and loss intertwine in delightful (and heartrending) ways. The star-crossed teens' tale is touching, but overwrought. Younger teens will like the many twists and turns, but older readers will have a hard time suspending their disbelief long enough for this novel to hit home.—Morgan Brickey, Marion County Public Library System, FL
‘Truly gripping… a cleverly structured, movingly characterised and powerful tale.’ The Sunday Times
‘Beautifully controlled – a tender love story about grief, regret, healing and hope… builds to a wonderfully rewarding ending.’ Daily Mail
‘Deftly structured… an impressive debut.’ Telegraph
‘Steven Camden is a born storyteller. Read TAPE, rewind, then read it again.' Phil Earle
‘Time-warping escapism. I loved it!’ Jordan, Rizzle Kicks
'Steven is one of my greatest influences, he is a powerhouse in his field, both looked to and admired. This book is just as original, playful as Steven is. Full of heart.' Laura Dockrill
“An affectionate tribute to the mixed tape and the human desire to find a fairy tale. It encapsulates universal themes of love, hope and fate while adding a soupcon of magic. Camden writes sensitively from the perspective of different genders, evoking the dynamics of family dramas and the awkwardness of coming of age.” The Bookbag
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Top Customer Reviews
I have to say that this was mainly a cover-read for me, because I think it's utterly gorgeous. I'm sad to say that the story didn't do it for me though.
I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but I have a bunch of problems with it anyway.
Let's start; I did not connect or relate to any of the characters, I wasn't intrigued or the least bit interested in how the story progressed and how it was going to end, the story didn't drew me in and I didn't really get the whole "plot-twist" at the end since it's pretty obvious.
I have a feeling that this book is targeted towards a much younger audience - maybe even middle-grade.
This book was probably just the shell of what I thought it was going to be which is why it have received a neutral rating of 3 stars.
I ended up getting this as an ARC at last year’s BEA. The concept reminded me a little of Landline by Rainbow Rowell, except instead of hearing the past on a phone and having conversations, Ameliah is only hearing the recordings a boy made 10 years before. But the connection may be stronger than she realizes…
I LOVED the twist. The connection between Ameliah and Ryan is deeper, and their end is not what you’d expect. Even though I guessed the twist pretty early on, it was satisfying to see that I was right, and it gave this story a fresh look at the time travel game.
I LOVED the family dynamics. Ryan’s father has remarried and brought a surly step brother with him. Ameliah’s parents have both died in separate incidents, and she’s now living with her Nan and trying to sort through her feelings. Family is often left out in YA, but Camden did a great job of showing the sibling relationships, the difficulties of feeling at home when the people have changed, the little bonding moments. I especially liked the relationship between Ryan and his stepbrother, and watching it change.
I LIKED the characters. Ryan was sort of dorky and awkward. There’s a moment where he’s climbing over a fence, gets his pants caught on the top, and falls to the ground–with his underpants showing and his pants inside out. It was pretty hysterical. Ameliah is kind of sweet and melancholy. She’s a bit more typical teenage girl.
I LIKED the lesser focus on romance. Yes, shocker! Romance and making out isn’t the main focus of the story! There are crushes and such, but it’s so much more about friendship and family. I knew there had to be some book out there like that.
I HAD NO STRONG FEELINGS about the writing and pacing. It was okay. It was a little slow and the writing was solid but nothing that made me go OMGBEAUTIFULMUSTQUOTE. It felt a little more juvenile than some of the YA that I prefer.
I DISLIKED the chapter format. The book is divided into chapters, but each chapter may contain both narrations. What changed was the font. The first time this happened, I read for several pages before realizing that I was now experiencing a totally different person.
Overall, it was an enjoyable book that would make a great light summer read.
Part of why Tape was so hard for me to read is the writing style. For some reason, the author used dashes instead of quotation marks throughout the whole novel. I know that shouldn't really be a big deal, but it was really hard for me to get used to this, and it also made me feel kind of removed from the story, since the dialogue isn't properly embedded in the narrative. Asides from this smaller issue, the writing is just very simplistic and basic; a lot of it read like it would be better suited for the middle grade audience. (Which would make sense, since with 13-year-old main characters, Tape is right on the border of MG and YA.) But even if it's meant for younger readers, I didn't find the writing to be all that engaging; it just never drew me in.
As for the plot, the problem is that... there is no plot; nothing really happens until the very end. The whole story moves incredibly slowly and just drags so much. 90% of this story is just the main characters complaining about how annoying their families are; I really can't remember anything else that happens in the first 200 pages. Towards the end, there are two plot twists. One of these I found very predictable; we know from the description that there's some kind of connection between Ryan and Ameliah, and it's hinted at throughout, so the way they turn out to be connected is not all that surprising. The other plot twist, regarding a character in Ameliah's life, I hadn't expected, so I guess that was good. But since I didn't really care about the characters, I couldn't get myself to care about this revelation, either.
If a novel is lacking a plot, I'd assume it'd at least have good characters so it can be more of a character-driven story. But... no. I never connected with these characters. Ameliah and Ryan are really similar characters in really similar situations - they're both dealing with a death in the family and adjusting to a new family arrangement, and that's really all that's happening. Their voices are very similar and hard to tell apart, at times. Since Ryan's story is set 20 years before Ameliah's, I had thought their voices would be different and adapted to their respective time periods, but that's not really the case. In Ameliah's world, everyone has cell phones, but that was the only difference I could see; I wanted to see more of a difference in the way they speak and act. I just didn't have any kind of connection with either of the main characters.
The secondary characters are very one-dimensional. I was especially disappointed by Eve's character. Considering she's so central to the whole story, I feel like she should have had some sort of personality, but we never really got to know her. Ryan and Eve's romance should have been hugely epic, since it brings the whole book together, but we only get a couple of short conversations, lots of insta-love, and nothing else. Everything about the romance is cliched, melodramatic, and not very realistic.
I really liked the idea of the tape connecting these two stories with its time-travel-esque features. But that turned out to just be a whole lot of wasted potential. The tape thing could have made this story stand out, but it didn't even turn out to be all that important. These two characters being connected via the tape could have had so many implications for their futures and could have really changed the course of these stories (sorry for being so vague; I don't want to give anything away), but the characters don't really use this connection for anything, which was really disappointing.
Tape really just didn't have any redeeming qualities for me. The plot is non-existent, the characters are flat, and the romance is melodramatic. Maybe Steven Camden's writing just isn't for me; it never drew me in, and I felt removed from the story throughout. Maybe it would be a better fit for younger readers, but even then... I just can't recommend Tape.