Rockadoon Shore by Rory Gleeson, published January 2017 by John Murray.
Read: February 2017
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: Cath is worried about her friends. DanDan is struggling with the death of his ex, Lucy is drinking way too much and Steph has become closed off. A weekend away is just what they need. They travel out to Rockadoon Lodge, to the wilds in the west of Ireland.
But the weekend doesn’t go to plan. JJ is more concerned with getting high than spending time with them, while Merc is humiliated and seeks revenge. And when their elderly neighbour Malachy arrives on their doorstep in the dead of night with a gun in his hands, nothing will be the same again for any of them…
Honest, moving and human, Rockadoon Shore is a novel about friendship and youth, about missed opportunities and lost love, and about the realities of growing up and growing old in modern-day Ireland.
This isn’t going to be good. I’m just putting it out there. It’s not like me to be so negative about a book. But honestly, what did I just read?! It started out so well – the cover was enticing, the blurb delicious, and as a lover of YA fiction, I was really excited for what promised to be a fantastic Irish YA novel. Sigh.
It all went downhill from there.
This book is told from 7 points of view, in alternate chapters, from the perspective of each of the main characters (the 6 friends, plus older neighbour, Malachy). This in itself wasn’t actually problematic. We spend a reasonable amount of time with each character, as the book is set over a weekend, and each chapter is clearly identified with whose perspective we are reading from. Let’s continue with the positives before I start my rant.
This book includes alcohol, drugs, cursing, and sex, and it is unapologetic about it. This, I enjoyed. It’s refreshing to read a book with older teens that depicts a bit of debauchery. The sugar-coated sweetness and light stories, while sometimes decent to read, just don’t reflect reality – so in that sense this book succeeded.
Now. On to my problems with the book.
The characters pretty much suck. And I don’t mean they’re unlikable (even though most of them are), I mean there was angst upon angst, and dramatic story-line piled on top of dramatic story-line, all involving self-absorbed, vapid, and rather uninteresting characters. I wasn’t rooting for any of these guys, and I questioned how they ever even became friends in the first place. I’m not saying I wanted cookie-cutter characters, or that I expected perfection – I LOVE character flaws – but from the blurb I was expecting sharp wit, and characters I could relate to, or at least find some level of depth and reality in.
I really struggled to finish this book, and almost DNF’d it on a few occasions. But, as most of you know, I struggle to give up on a book completely. I was invested in this story to a degree, and in order to write a complete review, I had to finish it. Throughout the novel, a sense of foreboding was created, particularly with Malachy’s chapters – and I’ll be honest – I was waiting for a nervous breakdown and/or a death. The ending I got, while stereo-typically dramatic, felt rushed and badly planned. It was almost too convenient. Have you ever seen a Christmas special of Emmerdale? You get the idea.
This novel is told in third person, and the dialogue doesn’t use speech marks, just “-” before each new line. On a personal reading and enjoyment level, I found this irritating. Malachy’s chapters also flash back to the past a lot, to his youth, which on the one hand was a nice incorporation in to the contemporary story being told through the 6 friends, but on the other hand kind of felt like it never really went anywhere and ultimately I was left confused by that ending. Overall, the tone was pretty sinister and dark, and I was left deflated, wishing I had have DNF’d it after all.
Have you read Rockadoon Shore? What were your thoughts? Have any other Irish YA recommendations? Let me know in the comments!