Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Review: Kevin's Point of View - Del Shannon

Extent: 402 pages
Publisher: self-published
Pub Date: 4th June 2010

To escape the emotional turmoil of his father’s death 12-year-old Kevin Tobin has retreated inside himself, developing his imagination into a dangerous foil and a powerful ally. While he antagonizes everyone with his superhero antics, his ability to escape inside himself becomes critical to his survival after his life is once-again turned upside down a year after his father’s death. When a mysterious package arrives in the mail, Kevin and his best friend are hunted by a ruthless villain who is determined to retrieve the package, which holds the key to his plans for world domination. After enlisting Kevin’s teenage sister and her pizza-delivery boyfriend in a battle for control over time itself, the group escapes into the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado and eventually discover that Kevin’s entire existence is because of the love of someone we never expected.

Kevin's Point of View is Del Shannon's debut novel and shows a deep appreciation for the powers of imagination, family ties, and the desire of young boys to both escape reality and prove themselves within it. The fast-paced, adventure-filled storytelling style makes this a book with wide appeal for readers of all ages.

For a woman in her twenties, I have to confess I'm a real sucker for a middle grade male-oriented action adventure. But I need to be more specific: I like middle grade male-oriented action adventure that has depth and doesn't patronise the reader and it is without doubt that Kevin's Point of View fits very comfortably into that category.

I found the lead character, Kevin, immediately both intriguing and engaging. He is a boy who lives in his imagination, blocking out reality by immersing himself into scenes from superhero cartoons to the point where he no longer engages with reality. Del Shannon is expert at losing his character in his mind and nurtures the reader into empathising with his hero - he's troubled but he's courageous and determined to fix both himself and his family, whatever it takes. As for the baddy - whom I judge very harshly as they are always important to me! - Del's has to be one of the better written ones, a real ruthless, looming threat that gets your skin crawling and your jaw clenching through narrow escapes.

The story itself is cleverly wrought. You begin the book as if someone has just scattered all the pieces of the puzzle in front of you and with each turn of the page you can fit another piece back into place. Mystery is key to this plot and Del Shannon is skilful at creating it, knitting it in comfortably with substantial action sequences. In fact, once the action gets going, there are not many places to pause and take a breath. In some cases this can be a bad thing: maintaining a high level of action and adrenaline leads to blocking out the natural curvy line of highs and lows in a plot that bring dynamics to the story, moments of external threat mixed in with moments of internal reflection. I think what Del Shannon has done, however, is wrap all these moments up, creating strong dynamics within a high adrenaline environment. This is what gets me excited about well written books for boys - how the author goes about sustaining interest in the reader while also putting them through a spectrum of emotions and begging them to form an opinion. Kevin's Point of View is full of those little lightbulb moments when amidst the action realisation dawns and you figure out what's going on - and then it doesn't happen quite how you expected and when it does you're on the edge of your seat. Gasp, gasp, gasp.

This is definitely one of the better MG boys books I've read, it's thoroughly engaging, has plenty of high adrenaline action but yet contains a clever, well-constructed story with characters of great emotional depth. Boys will love it and as a twenty something year old woman, I have to say I love it too.

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