A fairly short book, but a pretty long read. My feelings on this are summed up quite nicely with a meh. Which is disappointing. I usually love David Levithan, but this was just not that well executed. The pictures are cool. Overly emo, yes, but pretty neat regardless, so kudos to Jonathan Farmer, the photographer. There are certainly people who will enjoy this or relate to it. It’s not terrible, but I don’t think most of you are missing out if you skip it. 2.5/5 stars.
Evan has been alone since his friend Ariel left. One day he finds a photograph, and the next, another in the same place. Of him. On the previous day. Looking at the first photograph. The photos continue to appear. Photos of Ariel. Photos of things and places only Ariel would know. Evan feels compelled to follow the twisted scavenger hunt wherever it leads him, desperate to discover all the pieces of the friend he thought he knew.
Some (Mostly Ranting) Thoughts
I couldn’t get into the characters in this. They were flat, practically caricatures of themselves. Evan is drowning in angst and self doubt. Jack is the wounded, but tightly shuttered manly-man. Ariel is a flighty, damaged, manic-depressive pixie. You’ve read them before. You’ll read them again somewhere else.
I had mixed feelings about the writing style. It’s scattered. We’re first person in Evan’s brain the entire time and some of the wording is normal exposition and some is strike-through, for Evan’s deeper thoughts, and some is italicized strike-through, for flashback. It’s meant to be poetic, to add layers to the story, and it succeeds at this somewhat, but mostly I just found it to be pretty tedious. I quite honestly feel there are better ways to portray emotion in a story.
Mostly what pissed me off was the ending. The mystery of what exactly happened and who exactly is leaving the photos is what pulls you through, but the climax is dumb. That’s an extremely non-descriptive and cruel way to put it, but that’s what it is. The revelation the characters undergo is small, the explanation of the identity of the stalker is lacking and, overall, it didn’t feel to me like it was worth what I went through to get to it.
I enjoyed the photos and a few isolated moments in the writing and the story, but it just wasn’t for me overall. The message I got out of this book was: “You don’t have to feel guilty about stopping your friends from hurting themselves” which to me is so self-evident it doesn’t need to be said. Someone out there could be compelled by it, but I just didn’t love it the way I expected to going in knowing who wrote it. So my recommendation is: skip this in favor of Levithan’s other work.