Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dedication

I recommend Dedication primarily to writers. It’s not a particularly remarkable book for the casual reader. It’s not bad, the characters are interesting, the plot fairly expected, but not boringly so. A word of caution, there is quite a bit of language (so don’t recommend this to your grandma who still washes out your mouth every time you swear).

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus tells the story of Kate, a woman determined on avenging her once broken heart against Jake, the man who was her first love, who held her up in some of her hardest times, and then left her behind to make a future for himself. And the stories he told in his songs were based on her life.

What Kate doesn't expect are the feelings of hurt and betrayal she feels towards others—feelings that have little to nothing to do with Jake—that also come to the surface; feelings that she was never able to deal with because her feelings for Jake got in the way.

She also doesn't expect that when she places herself once again in Jake's path, there might be the possibility of getting a second chance at a first love. Is it possible to get back what they once had? And if it is, what happens when the peace of a vacation, a time outside of real life, fades away and real life shines through? And when it comes down to it, is that second chance really what she wants?

I recommend this book to writers because of the way it relays and presents information. It’s always a little difficult for a writer to decide how they want to relay information, how much the reader needs to know when, and when does the suspense become too much so the reader just feels left out. Dedication provides an interesting solution to this problem: it alternates between the past and present, not an unusual tactic, but it’s done very carefully, so the reader knows just what they need to know and not a whole lot more, but so the reader doesn’t feel left out of the story.

You start out knowing the very basic plot, be it from descriptions online or from reading the back of the book, and from the content of the first chapter, but you don’t know the details. As you continue reading you find out more of why Kate and her friends are angry with Jake, not just because he took the music that they had worked on for so long and made it famous without them, but because he left in the middle of the night without any word. You find out why she’s so angry about the stories he tells in his songs. These details come out just at the right time and by switching between past and present you can see the incidents as they occur, and you can then immediately see how they have affected the narrator.

Because there is a first person narrator in the story the reliability of the narrator is immediately called into question. However, because the story goes back and forth and we see so many of these incidents that have affected Kate and her friends first hand, we don’t question her reliability further because of the time that has passed. If Kate were recounting the stories of her teen years through the lens of the present and of her adult hood her views would be skewed and she would be even more unreliable, almost to the point where we as readers might not believe anything that she says about the past because of the way everything has turned out (she’s a little bitter). But we see a semi-reliable narrator in Kate because even the past we see as though it were the present.

I also want to comment on the end of the book. I found the conclusion of the story to be very satisfying in a way that I really can’t explain. Not only the end of the story, but by the way the novel concludes. The last chapter I felt, really tied things up beautifully and it didn’t feel contrived the way it could have.

I hope that the writers out there read this, if not for content, then for the form.

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