Amber by Julie Sykes
|Amber by Julie Sykes|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A superb premise is grabbed and run with in this book, with a lot of enjoyment to be had as a result.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: September 2013|
|Publisher: Curious Fox|
Amber wakes up. And in a way, there is a case for that being all the plot summary I give you. So I'll be careful when I elaborate, and say she wakes up in a hospital, the day after a car crash, in a state where she remembers nothing. She can pick up emotions and so on, but she knows nothing about where the car was going, or who she is. And to be honest, my opening sentence is a lie. Because the girl has only two objects about her, and one is an amber necklace, she takes the word as her name – even that seems to be in the past. But she's not in the hospital for long, and even as she faces the blank slate of a new life, some things that might be deeply buried in her start to surface…
This is a taut thriller adventure for the ten to thirteens, with a slight bias towards a female audience, and a whole host of entertainment. For once the premise is sustained as rightfully, as wholesomely and as vividly as it should be, and this girl with secrets is sterling company. The matter-of-fact introduction to some of those secrets is just brilliant, and for the main part the story gallops along, however stuck it might seem to get in real life and relationships. At a brief recap there are five real cliff-hangers for the reader to pause at admiringly, even if the chatty and characterful first person narration soon carries on as if the chapter break never existed.
OK, that in itself is not perfect – I never a hundred per cent felt this was the voice of a young teenage girl narrator. And I saw a couple of tiny, therefore reasonably ignorable niggles, for instance one building's drive seemed interminably long, and the circumstances of Amber's life and choice of hobbies (and boyfriend's hobbies) seemed a bit like the author's wish-fulfilment, or the result of her still Writing What she Knows a la creative writing classes. But that really is getting on the churlish side of criticism. There is an immediacy to this adventure, a universal appeal and a non-stop bravura action that reminded me of the best of Ali Sparkes.
So from a very basic premise a full-on pleasure has arisen, and one I don't think adults would particularly regret reading – this one never did. I did have to think myself into the target audience now and again to see if they would have predicted what I was more-or-less getting right (and I emphasise it was only more-or-less, there will always be something here to surprise you). The result was I didn't care; I'm sure anyone in the right age range will definitely be impressed, gloss over the very tiny cracks I saw in it, and have a whale of a time. In the end the beginning outweighs the conclusion, and the middle is pretty damn good too.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The fact there are supposed to be sixteen books in the series beginning with The Game by Krystyna Kuhn and only two are yet out in English is a disappointment - it's great for this audience, albeit perhaps a year or two older. Other authors Amber managed to remind me of included D J MacHale and Scott Westerfeld.
You can read more book reviews or buy Amber by Julie Sykes at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Amber by Julie Sykes at Amazon.com.
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