Author: Ty Roth
Release Date: February 2011
Published By: Delacorte Books
Pages: 304 pages
Goodreads Rating: 3.49 stars
Review: Three historical figures are brought together in modern times: shy high school junior John Keats, prodigy and messed up Gordon Byron, and of course, Shelly. When Shelly drowns, Keats and Gordon fulfill her final request by stealing her ashes and bringing them to Lake Erie to spread. But as they navigate the many obstacles of their journey, they piece together their entwined but fractured pasts and come to terms with the truth of Shelly's death.
I'll admit, when I started SO SHELLY, I was fairly skeptical. The idea of bringing these poets and writers together in our world just felt a little odd, but that quickly changed when I read the first page. That was all I needed to suck me into the story, into the incredibly complex lives of the three and their surprising pasts. Ty Roth used actual legends of the writers' lives in the story, but despite the fact that many appeared exaggerated, this was somewhat the point. A person's reputations are a part of them.
As I said, the characters were very well-developed, to the point where each felt real and, to a certain extent, not. This didn't work against the story, though. Keats was perhaps the simplest of the three, and was a rather shy, timid guy who, despite being the narrator, was in the background or not present during the retelling of their past. (The book alternated between their current adventure and then stories of what occurred before.) He came out into the spotlight more towards the end, but I still wished we could have read more about him.
Gordon was, well, legendary. His screwed-up childhood was described in great detail, as were his many exploits as a teenager. Shelly was his neighbor, and so their histories were connected. They had a complicated relationship - Shelly was in love with him, but while he didn't love her back, he needed her to love him. And so he kept stringing her along, and she kept loving and hating him at the same time. Honestly, the way these two characters were described and developed was absolutely beautiful.
This book was a fascinating read. My attention was glued from the very beginning even though it does start a bit slow, mainly because of how intriguing the characters were. Some people might not like this one because it's rather quirky, but if you're like me and enjoy the off-beat books, then this one's right up your alley. SO SHELLY is a complex, beautiful novel that I never expected to like but found myself loving.