Monday, 21 May 2012

Contempo-May Review: Dear Dylan by Siobhan Curham

In One Line:  girl writes email to her soap-star hero, and gets a reply!
Genre: High School heart-ache, with a touch of High School Musical!
The Gist:
Georgie is obsessed with a guy called Dylan. But Dylan isn’t the cute, pale and sparkly loner dude in the school canteen, Dylan is an actor on a slightly Hollyoaks sounding TV show. But no matter, because Georgie is IN LOVE. So she does what any of us would do, and sends him an email through his fan website declaring her undying passion. AND SHE GETS A REPLY! But shhhhh.... don’t tell her that it’s just an automatic response.... at least it is at first...
The Cover:
I completely dig this cover. I wish it wasn’t quite so white, but for a novel that conducts itself purely over email it’s suitably sparse and intriguing. I’m actually a fan of the original self-published cover of this book:



Even though the girl on the cover looks like she’s about twenty-one and is a model in a safe sex leaflet, I love the doodling aspect. I wish the designers had left that in. Either way, the final cover is inoffensive and I love the author font - could make good branding for any future novels by Ms Curham, don’t you think?
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • The entire thing is told in emails. THE ENTIRE THING. And whilst at first I got slightly scared that this may end up feeling boring, or repetitive, or contrived, IT’S NOT. It works. It totally works. 
  • The most amazing thing Ms Curham does with the email thing is that she gets the voices spot on. And I’m not just talking about normal narrative first person voices, but EMAIL first person voices. Because we all sound different in email, how we write is naturally going to be different than how we speak, but the voices in this book are managed perfectly. They feel real. You feel like you are actually going through someone’s inbox, and the fact that I found all this so believable just made it all the more of an amazing read.
  • This isn’t just some fluffy little creature of a book. Oh no. This book packs some emotional punch too, and does it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or like the author ever thought ‘maybe I should do something a bit serious here?’ The whole book works as one cohesive whole, and the email structure only means you feel MORE involved with all the pain and drama. 
  • High School Musical! The kids in this book are putting on a show of Bugsy Malone, and of course our narrator is a bit of a secret superstar. I love that I can live a little bit vicariously through her.
Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • It’s rather tweeny compared to other books I’m reviewing as part of Contempo-May, and probably suitable for the eleven-plus crowd, which is fine. It’s the kind of book which gives you meat in it’s ‘issues’ so I’m pleased that it didn’t push any further boundaries in terms of sex/drugs etc. 
  • When this book does get heavy, boy does it get heavy, much more than you’d expect for the novel that starts out the way it does. If you’re of a sensitive nature, looking for nothing more than light-hearted swoon, I’d give this one a miss. Saying that, at the same I’d also encourage you to read this book, because you can’t exist on a diet of light-hearted swoon alone. Every once in a while you need a bit of gritty meat. 
The Hypersomnia Test:
It passed! And like I’ve said in previous posts, keeping me awake on a tube journey whilst reading often has a lot to do with the pacing of the plot. The format of this book, told entirely in emails, meant you were constantly looking for the next hit, looking forward to the next reply and desperate to find out what happened next. 
Final Verdict:
This book is a perfectly formed little treat. It sticks rigidly to it’s format, and manages never to sound tired or trite. Instead of pummelling you with heartache and grit it slowly eases you in with humour so that when you do reach the tough stuff towards the end, you are fully onside with the characters and know exactly how they’re feeling. I actually think this book is pretty remarkable for a debut. I’m really jealous of Siobhan’s handling of the voices, especially within emails, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!
Further Reading:
Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
Falling Fast by Sophie MacKenzie (read my review HERE!)
To buy Dear Dylan click HERE!!!



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