It’s About Love by Steven Camden

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It’s About Love by Steven Camden

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: A tale of past mistakes, violence, revenge, friendship and love. It’s not quite up with Tape, but it’s still a very good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780007511242

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As an acclaimed hip-hop style performance poet, Steven Camden is skilful at painting evocative imagery with words. His second novel for teens enters the world of the film script, cleverly playing with cinematic intertextuality. It is a tale of past mistakes, violence, revenge, friendship and love. An emotive, powerful, thought provoking experience it rates a 4.5 because it lacks the magical ingredients of Camden’s debut, Tape. It doesn’t make the reader’s heart sing but it does put their nerves on edge. I challenge you not to shed a tear.

In ‘It’s About Love’, Camden experiments with form, setting out his book like a film script within which his male protagonist Luke, a student enrolled in a film studies course, is crafting a script himself using real events as the basis for his ideas. The reader becomes acclimatised to characters, plot and locations through the cinematic language of interior and exterior shots during night and day. This allows Camden to use mise-en-scène to effectively communicate emotions and to convey tension by the use of a ticking clock or the throaty growl of an engine.

Camden hails from Birmingham, a city with a reputation for gritty urban reality. As he explains in his poem ‘’Heartburn’’, “There’s beauty in the beast. My city ain’t pretty but its home”. He introduces his new book through a poetry video on YouTube proclaiming “I wrote it to celebrate home, how the things that you need won’t leave you alone. It’s about friends and family and trouble and blood. It’s about mess and evil and passion and good. “ His poetic roots are evident in the urban rhythms of his language. Camden is also skilled at reflecting upon the minutiae of detail whether it is a red and black pencil in the hair, a symbolically cracked mobile phone screen, or knuckled fists pressing up and down. He is also excellent at describing the awkwardness of new relationships and the magnetic pull it is possible to feel towards someone else.

The premise for Luke’s script stems from personal experience, reflecting his mate Zia’s sentiment, “My life is my scrapbook”. He is encouraged by his charismatic teacher to collaborate in class with someone he feels a connection with. The problem is that in the past an incident happened which is about to impact on his life again. Can he look to the future or does he have a monster inside waiting to swallow his dreams? Will his childhood friends Tommy and Zia, fit in to his new world at college? Where has his big brother Marc been for the past two years? What is the significance of “Long Time Round”? Why does Simeon call him ‘’Waterboy’’? Who is Donna? Who is Megan? Who is Michelle? Who is Leia, other than a ‘Star Wars’ character? What film role did Luke’s dad play in his youth? Can he ever escape from the shadow of his big brother or his distinctive physicality imposed upon him by genetics and capricious fate? Is he doomed to continually act out a role play or can he break the cycle of violence? Why is Luc Besson’s movie “Leon” important? Is it about revenge or love? For answers to these conundrums and more explore the world of “It’s About Love”. It’s gritty and real and an emotionally fraught experience.

If you like poignant teen love stories try Lucas by Kevin Brooks and Alienated by Melissa Landers. If it’s kitchen sink drama that appeals read IBoy by Kevin Brooks. For something with real heart don’t forget Tape by Steven Camden. If you like the idea of something completely different,-a mix of graphic novel and movie script check out The First Escape (Dopple Ganger Chronicles) by G P Taylor or spooky fantasy book/comic hybrid Malice by Chris Wooding. If a gritty, witty reality read about the social alienation felt by urban blacks in Britain and the use of violence to resolve disputes interests you The Dirty South by Alex Wheatle is another option. For a look at gang culture get gripped by the compelling No Way to Go by Bernard Ashley.

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