Book Review: Gideon Lee (Gideon Lee #1) by Lisa Orchard

Summary (as seen on Goodreads):
Lark Singer’s relationship with her mother is prickly to say the least. As she enters a musical competition that could launch her career, Lark also searches for answers her mother would rather keep hidden. Throw into the mix the fact her best friend Bean has been acting strangely, and Lark finds herself launched into uncharted territory. Will her quest for answers sabotage her musical aspirations?

I am a musician, and therefore quite critical of how music is represented and shown throughout a story. That being said, I do play bass guitar and am confused as to why Stevie would be playing chords on his bass when in fact the bass guitar's purpose is to play the bass notes, maybe walk a few chords, but otherwise lacks chords. A chord needs needs at least three notes being played at the same time, and considering a bass guitar only has four strings, this doesn't happen often. Also, I have two pairs of drum sticks, and while I am well aware that they will not fit in my back pocket, I seriously doubt they would be able to fit in any back pocket, especially if someone were to sit down. Ouch! The thought of it is painful.

The story itself doesn't really make sense. It's titled Gideon Lee, which makes readers think that this is what the book is about. That couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, the story revolves around Lark writing lyrics and Bean acting strange. A title should not only be loosely tied to the rest of the novel. It makes it feel much less cohesive, and more like separate parts of a story instead of a whole.

The writing itself is also not as strong as it could have been. For example, in the narration are statements such as the following:
I like anonymity
I see the school in the distance
The sky is the color of slate
These statements tell the reader what the narrator is seeing or feeling instead of showing. Obviously, the narrator is the one who sees the school in the distance. "The school looms in the distance" or something similar would have been much more effective. An enjoyment of anonymity can be shown if someone seems to pause to stare and the narrator ducks her head, silently praying to herself that she isn't stopped. That tells readers all they need to know, and doesn't feel so much like a statement of the obvious.
Several info dumps are also present throughout the story. The one about Lark's grandmother is more understandable, but information presented when Bean is introduced could have and should have been more effectively woven throughout the story so that readers will actually pay attention and remember those things. Clumping too much information together is not strategic or good writing. Similarly, when describing Pearl's, a large info dump followed for a venue that never even physically appears throughout the story.

It also feels like the narrator is aware she is in a book, also emphasized by several strange occurrences. For example, Lark and Bean have known each other for years, but mysteriously his first time entering Lark's mom's room is when they're searching for her guitar. If they really are that close, it's more likely that he's been in there at least once or twice, perhaps while playing hide and seek or when accidentally wandering in during his first time there. Also, for the first time in Lark and Bean's friendship, she brings up the fact that she doesn't know her father. This seems rather odd considering how close she and Bean are supposed to be, and takes away from the idea that they supposedly share everything with each other. Both of these instances make it feel like Lark knows she's in a book, detracting from immersion and realism. Even more strange is the fact that it takes Lark until Chapter 3 to note that her mom was 16 when she was born and how it must have effected both of them. Once again, it feels like a plot device inserted in, when it could have flowed more naturally. Not surprisingly, this is also a piece of information that Bean doesn't learn until it comes up over the course of the story.

However, there were some descriptive elements present throughout the story that showed thought and care in crafting the statements, which is always nice to see. For example:
His voice is raspy, and sounds as dry as the chalk dust that seems to have penetrated his lungs.
like the sun dipping below the horizon on a summer night
this new one takes me prisoner
its squeaks betraying its age
In short, similar descriptions to that were also present and added nice detail to the story.

The relationships in this story were also slightly odd. Francine may have been hiding Lark's father's identity from Lark, but Lark's response is extreme and not very realistic. There is an incredible amount of disrespect present throughout their interactions on Lark's end. Most concerning is the sentence "I almost want to go downstairs and start something with her. Just to relieve the pressure, but I don't." Even when really frustrated and annoyed with someone, it isn't normal to enjoy using arguments as a way to relieve tension, considering the hurt and pain that comes after an argument. Her inability to see through what Bean is doing is also not realistically shown. While warning signs can be present for what was happening, her denial is not portrayed in realistic way.

Finally, while this book is supposed to be the first in a series, it ends on a very abrupt note. While there is an art to ending on a cliffhanger, this just leaves readers confused and feeling like all the tension that was built up had zero resolution. It's understandable that not all tension will resolve at the end of a book, but so little of it actually was confronted that this is very confusing.

Overall, this book wasn't stellar, but it has potential. I would still be interested in reading subsequent books in the series to watch both author and character development. For now, this book will receive two jellyfish.

Thoughts? Please don't hesitate to stop by and say hi! I love hearing from you guys.

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