Author: Chris Gill
Release Date: December 18 2015
Publisher: PRNTD Publishing
Format: Paperback, 262 pages
Hello lovelies! I was sent this beautiful book by the publishers for review, so a big thank you to PRNTD Publishing. Normally when I’m asked if I would like to review a book for an author, I have to decline because I already own so many unread books that adding more just stresses me out, however I was so impressed with the design across the cover and the author’s website that I said yes to Shell. I’m so glad I did, because this book was a surprisingly refreshing dystopian that was a quick and enjoyable read.
First things first, can we just appreciate the beautiful design that is the cover for Shell. I love it’s simplicity, how clean and fresh it looks; the colours used, the typography; everything. This cover is just beautiful, and I particularly appreciate that it is so different from the typical dystopian covers we’ve all come to know (e.g. Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.).
Shell is set in a world where society was forced to retreat to a city under the ocean that came to be known as the Shell. Life as they had known (or the Old World as it is called) was destroyed, and due to the preparations made by the government, the people had somewhere to go. Though living in the Shell comes at a cost; fresh air and natural light are distant memories; jobs are hard to come by except for working for the government; crime and poverty rates are high; and from the latest reports of the government, ten years on and the Old World is still not stable enough to return to. But are the government telling the truth?
Shell follows Red, a 19 year old rebellious girl who came to the Shell an orphan after her Mother was suspiciously left behind in the Old World. Unable to have faith in the government, she defies them in her bleak life, and never stops questioning if she’ll ever make it back to the Old World.
Starting with the good.
I really enjoyed the writing. It was descriptive, and beautiful, and paced the story wonderfully. In fact, the writing was so on point, that it was my favourite part about this entire book. Some beautiful examples of the writing;
“Like crystals scattered over a powder-blue blanket. That’s what came to the young girl’s mind the very first time she saw the ocean. The way the sun glistened upon the crashing waves reminded her instantly of the little sparkly wonders her mother finished her outfit off with when she was dressing up for the evening.”
“Albeit an incredible design, in many ways the United Underworld was like a skeleton of a body that had never been given its flesh.”
“She realised that shells were the legacy of the life beneath the ocean.”
“All that was left of Red’s world shattered around her into tiny fragments. Like a bolt of lightening penetrating a house made entirely of glass.”
I also loved that the plot kept surprising me. I find that in a lot of the dystopians I read, I can always tell what’s going to happen, and so when I do find out I’m left a little bored because I had already worked it out. Shell was not like this in the slightest. The overall major event that occurred at the end I did see coming because the book was building towards that, however all the little twists along the way surprised me each and every time.
There is one particular twist that occurs to Red (I won’t say what as it would be spoiling and I don’t want to do that), but normally when I read about this kind of thing in books I actually struggle to continue reading. It’s just something I don’t particularly enjoy reading about. The second it popped up in this book, I was a little wary with continuing to read because I really didn’t know how detailed or how much of the story this was about to take up. I’m so glad that this really didn’t become the focal part of the story – rather it indirectly spurred the characters to action without giving me a bunch of details and I really appreciated this.
I know that must be the vaguest thing ever, so if you’ve read the book and am wondering which part I’m talking about, I’ll leave you a clue in the words of Red to work out what I’m referring to;
“This had simply been an escape from one hell to another.”
The other thing that was a surprise for me and that I really enjoyed was that this book was not just told from Red’s perspective. We got a whole bunch of perspectives and this allowed for the story to flow in a more logical way. It also allowed for me to get a better feel for the characters.
Speaking of characters, I kind of had mixed opinions of them. I didn’t really connect to Red – part of the reason is I think because she’s such a feisty and tough girl who is set against being angry at the world, and I can’t relate to this. I also feel like her character development was a little off. She is a ‘suspicious of the world’ kind of character in that I mean when someone new comes into her life she doesn’t open up because she can’t trust people. This is witnessed with Ethan, her government issued therapist. She was very wary of him, but I feel like her opinion of him changed very drastically and I couldn’t quite believe that someone who has been so untrusting of the government for so long would open up as fast as she did. A little later on in the story Red meets a character named Trip, and although Trip was not someone who worked for the government, I also found it to go against Red’s character that she opened up completely within just meeting Trip.
I really liked Ethan. From the very first interactions he had with Red I loved that he was a sarcastic and sassy kind of character. Such as when he notices Red has thrown a glass of red wine at a wall and his response was “I take it you missed your mouth slightly.”
I really really really loved Marcus. I love when there are older, wiser characters who are friends with the younger and less wise protagonists. I was sad that there wasn’t more of him in the book because I really think he had a nice influence on Red.
The rest of the characters I liked for the most part although I feel like they weren’t in the book enough for me to form a solid opinion about them. I liked Red’s friends and that they stuck by her even when she left them with no information about her plans. I also obviously did not like Ivan or Carmen or any of the bad guys – they were definitely awful people.
Moving on to the not as good stuff about the book.
My biggest problem with this book is that it just seemed a little rushed. There is so much that happens in this book, and in only 262 pages. The last third of the book in particular crammed so much in, that I feel like it became overwhelming and unsatisfying. I feel that if it had been a little longer, perhaps it could have done justice to the ending. 262 pages in my eyes is small for a book, and I feel like this definitely could have been longer without compromising what it was trying to achieve.
In saying this, I do commend the author on releasing a standalone dystopian book and for taking on everything he did in the plot. There was a lot that went down in this book, and in most other dystopians the same kind of thing could take three books before anything in the world changed. I liked that this is a standalone and that there is completion to the story without having to wait for multiple books to see what would happen.
I particularly felt that the last third of the book was more telling than showing, and I think this was a little frustrating because it glossed over so many things. An example of this is right at the very end Ethan finds out about something that would be very startling and emotional to find out, and rather than us getting to read the dialogue about how Red provides this information to him, there’s a paragraph that begins with this;
“Red had spent as little time as possible filling Ethan in on everything that had happened, but there were certain details she just couldn’t keep secret.”
This paragraph then continues to recap on the two awful things that have happened that us as readers know but Ethan doesn’t know. We then get Ethan’s response in dialogue. I just really wished that the whole conversation could have been dialogue because I think it would have been slightly more emotional than what we did have.
The other thing I wasn’t particularly a fan of was the romance. Now, I really liked the idea of Ethan and Red being together, I just didn’t feel like this was executed as well as it could have been. A big trend particularly in YA novels these days is of instalove, and this book unfortunately had the same kind of feels to it. The relationship progressed quite quickly, particularly considering that the characters barely had spent any time together, and I just felt that it didn’t seem like a natural relationship. There were some times that were very cheesy, and others that were a little cringey. I really wish this hadn’t been the case because as I said, I did like Ethan and Red together. I just didn’t like the instalove.
Every once and awhile I’ll come across a book that I really don’t know how to rate. Shell is one of those books, and I feel that is sits somewhere around a 3.5 and 4 out of 5. This was a well and beautifully written book that took a unique and fresh stance on a genre that in my eyes has become known for being much of the muchness. It was enjoyable, and a page-turner as I quickly devoured the pages in anticipation of knowing how this book would end. In spite of it’s faults, I had a positive reading experience with this book, and I commend the author for managing to write a standalone dystopian. I will definitely be keeping my eyes out on future works by the author.
Are you ready to enter The Shell?
You should be.