Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Soldier Hill

Today I am reviewing Soldier Hill by Phil Rossi. A book about a bunch of skater kids that decide to do the right thing when an unofficial war memorial is in jeopardy of being destroyed.

In a nutshell:
Twitter summary: "Stoked meets Degrassi meets Platoon"
Length: Novella (~76 pages)
Target Audience: Teen and Up
Genre: Fictional drama
Swearing: Mild (a few naughty words)
Violence: Mild
Skater dialogue: High

The novel's blurb is:
    "When a local soldier is killed in the vietnam war, a memorial was created to honor his sacrific. Years later, the memorial faces removal and demolition. Two High School buddies devise a scheme to preserve the memorial. Will the Boys summon the courage to break the law?"
My plot summary would be a little different: to me it reads like a snapshot into Teenage Americana during the 80's while living in the lingering aftermath of the ongoing Vietnam war. For the large majority of the book there are references to the soldiers and Vietnam but most of the story focuses on the lives of Eddie Higgins and his pal Dave.

The dialogue used by Eddie reminds me of A Clockwork Orange - you need to be in 'the zone' to comprehend what's written ... and I like it. The snapshot into 80's Americana is interesting, Joe is well-realised and the bullies are not unrealistic, the book is well written, dialogue and characters are consistent.

The book is very short, too much time is focused on the set up (if reading based on the blurb), the blurb/cover is misleading, a few minor typo's and convenient scenarios ... thanks to Magic Marty.

I think if I were basing my choice to read on the cover or blurb I would be slightly put out. Fortunately I came in with no preconceived notion and so I let the story wash over me rather than with some sort of expectation of what should happen. Although the opening chapter still struck me as strange. I am instantly assaulted by strange abrupt sentences and colloquial terms that initially don't make sense:

"We hit high walls camping major coin, landing in a mean-ass, super-spread."

I enjoyed this although some people might not, depending on their tolerance for interpretive dialogue. If you give it a few moments, the words start to flow and the feeling of being there begins to imbue. I really liked the dialogue but felt it would have done better for a good 30-40% more writing. I'm not sure that the plot point in the blurb was required as it stood on its own two feet without the need to rescue any memorial.

In conclusion, I will still give this a read rating but only if you base your choice on my review and not on the blurb or cover. If you're expecting some sort of coming of age or ode to Vietnam or action, this is not it but I enjoyed this nonetheless. Rossi has a good writing style and lives this moment in history and, with a little more direction, this would have been the next Stand By Me.