So Shelly by Ty Roth
Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident.
After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.
So Shelly was a fantastic, romantic, and intense debut novel that weaves together the lives of three poets in a modern day setting. Romantic and complex, this is a book sure to appeal to older teens and even adults. Ty Roth has a fantastic writing style that pulls you in and doesn't let you escape until the final sentence. I've been anticipating this book ever since I read the summary and saw the gorgeous cover. All I can say is it did not disappoint in the least. The plot was detailed and I liked how it alternated between the past and present. Readers got to better understand the characters and their actions currently by reading about their past experiences and the people they encountered. It also helped to understand how the two main characters knew Shelly since the story opens with her funeral.
The narrator, John Keats, was a character that I liked right away. He was an ordinary guy, but basically always on the sidelines of Gordon and Shelly. Gordon and Shelly grew up together and experienced a variety of different things together. Keats doesn't really get to know Gordon well until the end. They paired up to complete Shelley's last wish and got to know each other, and maybe even themselves, along the way. Both boys learn some new things about Shelly from each other and Keats gets to hear a lot about Gordon's past escapades, downfalls, and successes. Gordon was a boy unlike any other. He was cocky, outgoing, smart, and so sure of himself. Everyone who met Gordon loved him and he had a lot of intriguing (and even dangerous) adventures. Shelly, on the other hand, was more like Keats. Although outgoing with her beliefs like Gordon, she was basically an outcast at school and most people thought she was extremely odd. I liked getting to know Shelly over the course of the story and to see how tough things had been for her.
The plot was very well executed and I liked the combination of past and present and how Keats was basically narrating Gordon and Shelly's lives. The reader got to see things through the eyes of Keats who was told most of it by Shelly. Each of the three main characters had a variety of interesting, and at times, terrifying, experiences. There is quite a bit of mature content in So Shelly and I don't recommend it to younger readers at all. Not only because of that, but Ty Roth has a very mature and vibrant way of writing that may not be understood by younger kids.
I'm very glad I had the chance to read So Shelley. It was an original and extremely well written first novel and I loved how he introduced the Romantic poets in a new and modern light. I definitely recommend picking this up as soon as possible!
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
February 8, 2011/Delacorte Press/304 Pages/Young Adult