Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

Maybe I'm too exacting about writing now that I do it with an eye toward publication. For me, Ten Thousand Saints was a good book that could have been great. Its genre has been described as rock lit and while music does make appearances from early in the story, the main character doesn't get involved in it until 58% of the way through the book (Kindle doesn't use page numbers, it uses percentages).

There seemed to be a little too much reliance on adverbs. Sometimes, I really felt certain scenes would've had more impact if Henderson had *showed* me the characters' reactions. Once she threw Jude headlong into the "straight edge" music scene, I did get a strong sense of just how wrapped up in it he got and why it meant so much to him. I thought she hit it just right when she showed what kind of nutty things teenage boys can get into. Some of the minor characters, Jude's friends, weren't all that different from each other but they were minor so that didn't bother me much.

Henderson uses a narrator throughout and that has its advantages. I wonder though if this story would have grabbed readers more if she'd alternated viewpoints among Jude, Johnny and maybe Eliza. She almost does that many times, to the point of making me wonder "is this a slip from narrator to close third? We're following this or that character's thought process pretty closely."

I think my biggest disappointment was the end of the book. Like JK Rowling does at the end of the Potter series, Henderson jumps ahead in time and reunites us with the main character after he's married. I was more uncomfortable with the way Henderson did it though, because she indicates the wife is not a character we've met. I don't think the poor woman even got a name. To me, the wife felt more like a shadow rather than a new, integral part of the guy's life.

It was a kick to read about the problems with early cordless phones. You guys under 25 have no idea what it was like to have conversations constantly interrupted by staticky noise and drift in and out the whole time. That added some important realism.

I really liked that Henderson didn't toss music industry terms around. She kept the whole music part well within the grasp of people like me who've never talked with anybody in the biz. Granted, the characters themselves wouldn't have gone for "formula" or "commercialized" music, though I don't know if that occurred by happy accident or on purpose. Sometimes authors who learn about something they're really interested can't resist getting some of it into a story whether it confuses readers or not, so I was glad Henderson avoided that.

Not a bad book at all, just one I feel would've benefitted from more editing attention. Critique Circle members push excellence in writing and I guess I hold published people up to that standard too.

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