White Dove by Ryan Gordon is a young adult horror novel about Zuri Bailey, a 17-year-old with more problems than face most high-schoolers, who suffers from a violent and mysterious attack in her past. As she comes to terms with the encounter, she witness more violence: a murder in her town of Dover Point. Battling personal issues and trying to take care of her family, Zuri find that the murderer is more terrifying than she even realized: a supernatural force is on the prowl.
Gordon is at his best when he’s expressing the emotional complexity of his teen characters. They are all facing very real insecurities and problems – especially his lead. Though vampires aren’t a new subject, Gordon injects enough new ideas and energy into this supernatural genre to create something original.
Unfortunately, the novel does have some significant problems. It reads like an early draft by a writer who’s just starting out. All of the ideas are there, and Gordon has a vivid imagination, but many of the sentences are inscrutable. You know what he’s trying to say, but it takes a few reads to fully understand the meaning. Here’s an example:
Zuri could feel his gazing looks focused on her as she eyed the desk beside him. She didn’t want to show the dubious expression corrupting her face to him, but who was she kidding? She knew he saw right through the mask she put up, which was why a short pause silenced the room before she decided to reply.
There’s just enough there to understand what is trying to be conveyed, but it takes too close a read to pick it apart – why her pause “silenced the room,” for example, isn’t made clear. Without nitpicking this one paragraph, it just shows how word choice affects the novel throughout. Another example: “Being a social outcast and trying to blend in at a party didn’t fit, same thing as a needle in a haystack.” That’s not really the meaning of “needle in a haystack,” as he seems to be saying at first that she stood out too much at the party, not that she was hard to find. There are just too many of these errors in the novel and they compound on each other.
One could make the argument that she’s a teenager and her thoughts are jumbled and frenetic, but that’s not what’s happening here. A novel – even one by an unreliable narrator – needs to be grammatically correct to be effective. Though there are few spelling mistakes, the book shouldn’t have gotten past an editor as is.
This is truly unfortunate because you can sense the passion and ambition behind the entire book. Its wordiness is a testament to the author’s obvious love of words and writing. But clarity is a significant problem. It’s not something that’s unfixable, however. There’s a highly entertaining novel buried within these issues. Scene by scene, the novel moves forward quickly and energetically. Gordon just needs to slow down a bit and make sure each moment is expressed clearly.
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