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So Shelly by Ty Roth
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So Shelly

by Ty Roth

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Review from library copy (even though at one point I had an ARC from NetGalley)

Interesting premise but squick factor for a couple of things and just not as good as it could have been. ( )
  kcarrigan | Aug 26, 2013 |
Admittedly, it took me a while to get around to reading this book. For that, I'm profoundly sorry. But I can say that I really, really loved this book. I can't count the number of times that I laughed out loud while reading it. The author, Ty Roth, deftly mixes humor amongst the darker themes for a great balance. Keats is a funny fellow. He's a great narrator with keen observations. As the story of the three unfolds, the characters take shape. Gordon is the most colorful of the three and his character demands to stand out. He craves attention constantly. Keats is a pallid sidekick who pines for Shelly, but feels too inadequate in Gordon's wake to ever speak up. Shelly has her own unrequited love, only it's directed towards Gordon. We get to know her better as the story of their past gets revealed. Keats deep self examination throughout the book gives him more shape and as he evolves becomes quite endearing.

This was a lovely book and the info given at the end regarding the actual Keats, Byron and Shelley was extremely interesting. I thought that since I knew little of Keats, Byron and Shelley that may get in the way of enjoying this book. Not in the slightest though. It was a wonderful story with a very contemporary message about living in the now and being present in every moment. Something we can all use a little reminder about from time to time. I'm giving this one 5 shiny kisses! ( )
  lisagibson | Nov 7, 2012 |
I was interested in this book because the three main characters, Byron Gordon, John Keats, and the mysterious Shelly are named after three famous English romantic poets. How would the author integrate the 19th century into a novel about high schoolers in the 21st? As it turns out, I'm not sure how well he did--I was sort of confounded by this novel.

The story is about two boys whom the readers first meet as they are about to steal the ashes of a dead classmate from the high school gym where her memorial has taken place and right out from under her father's nose. Readers learn that Gordon Byron and John Keats, who are not friends and barely know each other, have been requested by the dead Shelly to give her a "proper" burial, at sea, with REM playing in the background (in a plot strangely close to a Better Than Ezra song). In this way Shelly is able to flush out her character fully, each to the other boy, who knows parts but not all of her story. It is also a narrative device to reveal her to the readers.

What stood out to me most of all, however, wasn't the revealing of Shelly and the reasons for her death. I'm not sure I was ever made to care about that. Instead, it was the narcissism of Gordon, who is definitely the main character if not the titled one, and the detachment of John Keats from both characters, even though he admits to confusing feelings about each. In a historical sense, both of these features are fair representations of the literary past. George Gordon, Lord Byron was an ennobled "playa" with very little recognition of the needs or even the humanity of his conquests; and Keats, the poet, a very young and sensitive boy much enamored with the romanticism found in natural beauty. Keats and Shelley had been friends and admirers in real life, but Keats never actually met Lord Byron, although Byron took great liberty in criticizing Keats's work, which he saw as simple and unschooled.

The events described in this YA novel, particularly those of a sexual nature--meaningless conquests, incest, abuse, rape--have a grounding in literary history but translate poorly to a contemporary American high school. It's not that I am naive in my thinking: yes, teens today deal with these issues and more. My concern is that these traumatic events became the basis for a romantic sensibility in 19th century England that the world may never see again, but in reality, today would lead to foster care, underperformance/high drop-out rates in school, and some type of reform--maybe even prison--certainly a difficult tangling of truth and fiction for students to unravel. And the Greek terrorist spy thing? Just silly.

Target audience is young adult--high school--but many parents and plenty of younger high schoolers would be troubled by the content. I was a little troubled.

Amazon.com says 14+ but I think 15-16 would be more appropriate. ( )
  katielder | Mar 1, 2012 |
So I'm just gonna get this out of the way right now. This entire book felt familiar to me because of a song by a band called Better than Ezra entitled "A Lifetime." Lyrics go like this:


Allie woke up 8AM
Graduation day.
Got into a car,
And crashed along the way.

When we arrived late to the wake,
Stole the urn while they
Looked away,
And drove to the beach
'Cause I knew you'd want it
That way.

And you were standing
On the hood of the car
Singing out loud
When the sun came up.

And I know I wasn't right,
But it felt so good.
And your mother didn't mind,
Like I thought she would.
And that REM song was playing
In my mind.
And three and a half minutes
Felt like a lifetime

It felt like a lifetime

And you move like water
I could drown in you.
And I fell so deep once,
Till you pulled me through

You would tell me
"No one is allowed to be so proud
They never reach out
When they're giving up."

And I know I wasn't right,
But it felt so good.
And your mother didn't mind,
Like I thought she would.
And that REM song was playing
In my mind.
And three and a half minutes
Felt like a lifetime

Are you sitting in the lights?
Or combing your hair again,
And talking in rhymes?
Are you sitting in the lights?

When I got home, heard the phone,
Your parents had arrived.
And your dad set his jaw
Your mom just smiled and sighed.

But they left soon
And I went to my room.
Played that disc that you'd given me,
And I shut my eyes
Swear I could hear the sea.

When we were standing
On the hood of your car
Singing out loud when the sun came up.

And I know I wasn't right,
But it felt so good.
And your mother didn't mind,
Like I thought she would.
And that REM song was playing
In my mind.
And three and a half minutes,
Three and a half minutes,

Felt like a lifetime.


So, this book isn't a complete portrait of those lyrics but the basic storyline is rather similar. I love this author because when I looked in the acknowledgements he credited Better than Ezra and REM as inspiration for the book. Ty Roth is just that cool! So, this book is a modernization of the relationship between John Keats, Mary/Percy Shelly (who has been condensed into one character, Michelle 'Shelly' Shelley) and George Gordon Byron. At the beginning of the novel (which is narrated by Keats) we first meet Keats and Byron after Shelly has committed suicide and they are attempting to steal her ashes to carry out her final wish. Shelly wanted her ashes spread on the beach of an island where she used to play as a kid, with an REM song playing on her boombox while they did it. Keats and Byron were only connected through Shelly and were NOT friends on their own. Keats is poor, Byron is rich. Keats is conservative and Byron is extremely debaucherous. If they weren't doing this for Shelly they'd have no reason to hang out at all. As the novel progresses we find out a lot of Byron and Shelly's backstory because it seems that she told Keats almost everything that ever happened to them - he was a confidante. Further into the book you find out that there was one very important thing that she DID NOT tell Keats. This book is all about coming to terms with death and the consequences of living the way they have chosen to live. I really liked this book and it was extremely well written. I admire that the author was able to take such firmly established real-life literary personalities and make them modern in a believable way. I gave this four stars because at times I felt majorly detached from the characters and unable to care for them - I'm unsure if that was because of Keats' narration or because of the way they were written. I would recommend this to anyone that loves literature or a good mystery/journey book. ( )
  AnnaKay21 | Nov 22, 2011 |
I’d have to say, before you actually dive into this book and enjoy it, to really *fully* enjoy this book to the maximum, it’s best if you familiarize yourselves with the Romantic Poets. Here I’m talking about the real famous ones: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats. Make Shelley a female and then you get the main cast of So Shelly. It’s also best if you also take a quick read through of Lord Byron’s life just for the extra background information.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved the Romantic Poets and their transformation into three high school students in a contemporary setting was just amazing and very well done. At first I was skeptical because I haven’t seen this done before and thought this might be a flop. But it wasn’t. It was extremely well done and the portrayals of Lord Byron,and John Keats were great and I’d say, probably hit the bulls eye when it comes to accuracy (well, close enough). Although I can’t say the same for Shelley (since he became a she for this story). Still all three characters were really good and fun to read.

Byron really was the main star of this book. He was dashing, exciting to read, had a rather peculiar and rather dysfunctional life but it didn’t matter. He still oozed charm, and you couldn’t help but like him even though you knew he was a selfish self centered jerk that really was just out for himself. The things he’s done in the book might make you either shake your head, widen your eyes at his audacity, or just make you say: “Whatta guy”.

Yet there was also Keats, who was central to this story as well and the complete opposite of Byron. They become the odd couple yet manage to have an odd but interesting friendship. Byron takes the reins, and Keats just follows but it’s deeper than that as the story progresses. I liked how this developed, in fact, I really liked all character development in this book. The characters are very real and three dimensional - although Shelly not so much I wonder if it’s because she was made a girl in this book so she had to act differently? her development was there as well but I didn’t think it was as great a magnitude as the other two.

The plot was good, albeit slow. However, I think with this book, although there is a mystery behind it, the main focus was on the main characters and their relationships and dynamics. The plot was really secondary here. That being said, I don’t think the book is really for everyone. (Plus, there’s some content matter in there not really meant for younger teens, this is for the older teen bracket). Would I recommend this? yes and no. Yes, because I thought it was a good read however I myself love the poets mentioned. So perhaps this book would be best for those familiar with the three. Those new to this should give it a try anyway, but background information will help. ( )
  sensitivemuse | Nov 9, 2011 |
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Most of us like to believe that we are born to do great things, maybe even to be famous. Truth is, we aren't and we won't. (from the Prologue)
It was the last day of school and the first day of summer. One of those limbo days, when you're not quite sure if you're ending or beginning. (from Chapter 1)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385739583, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:09 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When their mutual friend Shelly is drowned in a sailing accident, high school junior John Keats and his volatile classmate Gordon Byron decide to steal Shelly's ashes and, in a romantic gesture, return them to the small Lake Erie island where her body washed up, but the journey proves more revealing and emotionally complicated than either of them had anticipated.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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