I have a penchant for finding disturbing stories. Most of the time, I love the stories despite their gruesome nature. I like the different perspectives that these novels give me about what it means to survive, and how a person can be affected by trauma. It’s also interesting to see how cruel or twisted someone can be. I picked up this book hoping to get a glimpse of all of these things. Unfortunately, I did not. Here is my review:
Synopsis (Goodreads): Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.
Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. The reader tracks Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero–and in the process, becomes ours as well.
Review: Stephen King said this novel was a masterpiece. After reading it, I find myself struggling to see why. I feel like I am one of the few people who did not like this novel but I simply can’t understand what was so great about it.
First of all, the writing was just terrible. There are so many minute details given about every little thing. The conversations, however, are the first. I have yet to meet a single human being talk like that. I am in the world of academia, and not a single professor has ever talked to me the way that Martin, Turtle’s father, talks. I just couldn’t handle the philosophical rants that seemed to never end and were about the same issue. I hated almost all of Turtle’s conversations were just repetitions of curse words; I get it, she hears it all around her, but what is with the obsession of saying c_nt all the time?! It made her seem so much more simplistic than she really was. I was even more bothered when Turtle met the two teenage boys because their conversations and interactions were so unrealistic. It made me wonder if the author had ever actually met teenagers before. First of all, they don’t just talk about aliens all the time or act as if the girl in front of them doesn’t exist. Second of all, they don’t say “dude” and “sick” every minute.
This novel was presented to be a story about how Turtle deals with the abuse she receives from her father and how she survives and finds herself. But as I read, it just felt like the author was trying to exploit the abuse factor. There was no careful handling of the subject matter. It was very crass, and while I can handle difficult topics like sexual abuse and incest, that doesn’t mean it should be handled so indelicately. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
Maybe there was some magnificence to this novel. But the bad dialogue, bad characterization, and careless handling of a serious and sensitive topic made it hard for me to see the good in it. I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.