A Novel of Contrasts

Tape
Steven Camden
HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Jan 2015, RRP $16.99 (paperback)

tapeQuintessentially, Tape is a novel of contrasts. It contrasts the past world of Ryan with the present world of Ameliah, the world of the male with the world of the female, the world of 1993 tape technology with the 2013 world of texts and twitter, and the world of the adult (from the teenager’s perspective) with the world of the teenager.

There is a lot to like about Tape with its focus on modern as well as the “retro” music of the early 1990s. The use of tape technology would likely be of quaint interest to modern teenager whilst evoking a sense of nostalgia in older readers. Like a tape, the stories of the two teenagers intertwine and play out in juxtaposition as the novel circles round and round its central themes of first love and of parental loss. Both typography and layout are skilfully handled with the use of the tape motifs around the page numbers and for the chapter headings and section breaks adding a nice touch, as well as the use of new and old fonts to indicate changed point of view from Ameliah to Ryan and back again.

However, the novel is slow to warm up and perhaps spends too much time establishing its characters and their respective worlds before ultimately gaining pace. Though visceral and immersive in parts, I found the use of present tense third person for Ameliah at times distancing and filmic. And I would have liked to spend more time inside the main characters’ heads, to increase my engagement with them, rather than observing their head movements. More could also have been made of the sci-fi/time-paradox aspects of the story.

A few early writing wobbles aside, the book has some poignant moments and a few twists and turns to hold the reader’s interest.

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