Bry's Reviews > Ryder

Ryder by Greta Maloney
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's review
Apr 24, 12

bookshelves: kindle, 2012, young-adult
Read from April 17 to 24, 2012

This is a very hard review for me to write, as I have 'known' Greta here on Goodreads for a long time now. I have known that she was writing a novela and that it is one of her passions. Thus I have been wanting to read it since I heard of it. Plus I usually love fairy tail revamps, and this one had some fantastic twists. In Greta's story Red is actually a boy named Ryder and the big bad wolf is a tiny, scared 14 year old homeless girl. So yeah, from the beginning my interest was piqued. Also, I totally enjoy chatting with Greta through Goodreads, reading her reviews, her blog, etc. She put her work out there for us, her peers, to read and review and that deserves props. Plus she reads my reviews too and knows that I can come down hard on books I don't like, but still she put it out there. So I am trying very hard to write an unbiased review here and hopefully I succeed!

Greta's style of writing in this novella combines free form poetry within the character narrative in an effort to create a lyrical and somewhat whimsical novel. Sometimes it works in books, sometimes it doesn't. An example of when it works - Lips Touch: Three Times and Eyes Like Stars. For me, this time, sadly it did not work. I enjoyed the plot and the characters, but I found the style of writing extremely distracting. So much so that at first I wrote down a couple of passages just to refer to in the review as weird spots, but had to stop as I realized they were not just weird spots and that the entire book was written such.

So lets start with the good...

The plot...
I love the idea of switching the genders of the characters in the original tale. It makes me completely unsure of what to expect. Ryder is a normal kid from a lower income, broken family. Piper is homeless living with a condition she doesn't understand and can't control. This is a lot of great elements that when mixed made for a great story.

The characters...
I'm going to talk about Ryder first because I liked him the most. He was a good kid despite growing up most of his learning years with a drug addled mother and no father. That was all thanks to his grandmother who thankfully was a smart, compassionate, and kind woman. He meets a girl, and shows himself to be a very good person, he helps Piper, feeds her, clothes her, and does it all without asking anything in return. Although once he found out about Piper, which was only about 3 weeks their relationship, he doesn't understand why she didn't tell him. I mean really? The girl is a member of a mythological race and he expects her to tell someone she knew for less than a month?

Piper was a sweet girl who definitely got the short end of the stick in life, and definitely had a lot of deep and complex emotions behind her actions. She did try to protect others from her Sister Wolf and definitely recognized the consequences of hers and her wolf's actions.

Plus there was Ryder's grandmother, Marti. She is such a strong woman. She tried so hard to help her daughter, and is now doing everything she can to raise her grandson despite being on a fixed income. She treats him well, and truly loves him, which the kid desperately needs. You get to know a lot about Marti through the chapter set from her POV as a young girl. I got the round about connection in that due to her own young love she understood Ryder's and Piper's more so that she would have otherwise. But spending an entire chapter from her POV seemed overkill, and suddenly pulled me completely from Ryder and Piper's story and threw me completely into Marti's and Jonas's story. And sadly, but the end of Marti's chapter I kind of wanted to read more about her then I did about Piper.

Some passages...
Now I didn't find all of the writing distracting. There were some extremely good passages that really spoke to me and totally drew me in. This one in particular was perhaps my favorite passage from the whole book - its when Piper come's too after her 'Sister Wolf' murdered her parents at the beginning of the book (i.e. not a spoiler) and is completely covered in gore.
"Her arms were heavy in her fathers life. Her mouth full of her mothers lungs."

The thing is that I would have appreciated these poetic passages a lot more if they had been a bit more sparse, but since it was inundated with them, they weren't as special.

The not so good...

The romance...
You all know that I am no fan of insta-love <3 <3 <3 I just don't understand how they can be so incredibly drawn to one another without a foundation to base it on. Yes Ryder saved her from Toby when they met, but a relationship rarely survives when it is only based off of a intense situation, and doesn't grow from there. That first encounter left them both enamored with the other despite almost no knowledge of one another. Then weeks pass in the narrative with only the telling that they spent almost every day together but there are no recantings of their conversations, what they do together, etc. So you have no basis on which base their relationship. Plus, after those 3 weeks Ryder is willing to put himself in danger despite Piper telling him how dangerous she is, and he is convinced she is the love of his life. I just wish their relationship had progressed a bit more slowly and involved more communication that the reader was privy to that would provide a solid and believable foundation for their love.

The Lyrical writing...
It was full of descriptive lists, repetition, overly descriptive passages, and paragraph long philosophical musings. I am only going to provide an 1-2 examples of each below, but they were on almost every page in the book. I understand that was the style that Greta was going for, but I found it super distracting and it constantly pulled me out of the story.

Almost everything that was described was done so with a paragraph of short descriptive sentences that often started simple, became a bit whimsical, then progressed to being to overt I usually didn't understand just what she was describing anymore. I came to expect them for every thing that was described and I wasn't often disappointed.
"Piper wasn't much taller than a tree strump; a sapling; an overgrown weed. Young and vibrant. An innocence to her time. Note a care in the world. Not even an evil laugh in her head. A whimsical lovely in every meaning of the word. Pure."

The Repetition:
She often repeated simple adjectives which was odd considering the variety of vocabulary used throughout the rest of the book. In this case she was using it as a way to name an unknown character but it didn't blend with the rest of the book. Plus she would repeat this description for him (since he didn't have a name for most of the book) instead of just using 'he' or 'his'. These 7 words were used multiple times.
"The dark man in the dark suit".

She also uses this not in conjunction with a name. It is meant to emphasize the traits she is describing, but instead is a bit annoying I'm sad to say. I just don't like reading the boy, the boy, the boy, over and over.
"Ryder, the boy in the red hood, the boy that made her believe in fairy tales, the boy who held her close to the heart that needed to continue beating."

Overly descriptive passages:
(This was what truly pulled me out of the story.) Sometimes she would assign a descriptive adjective for every noun in the sentence - and this would go on through an entire paragraph.
"The dark man in the dark suit covered her button mouth with a rough palm."

Other times in the descriptive lists that I mentioned above, the comparisons would become so transient they didn't even describe what I think was being described.
"The golden sun was setting as snake oil darkness crept over the cul-de-sac"

What is snake oil darkness? When I think of oil I do think dark, viscous, encompassing, but snake oil makes me think of something the color of cooking oil or canola oil as there were often medicines that were just a mixture of water and whatever they could dilute in it and sell it as a cure.
"A stretch of the nose. A tug of the gums. A pulling prod with each finger bone and toe. Her ankles cracked backwards. Her feet arched up like ballerina slippers."

Here is another time when the lyrical writing just got away from her because while it sounds pretty it is incorrect. Ballerina slippers are flats. I think she was referring to a ballerina's pointe shoes. And most people might not catch that, but since it did it made me remember I was reading a book instead of living the story with the characters. Here are a couple more quotes just so you understand how often this was happening (NOTE: All of the quotes used were in the first 3% of the book)
"The sky was a dark violent blue. It was the first full moon since the solstice. A mystical harvesting orb. Yellow like a cat's eye. As big as a giant's wink. Hanging thick and heavy in shadows."

"Strawberry daiquiri bloodshot whines. A color you can't buy at the drug store. A color that would have been envied at the country club. A deadly rose, a pesky thorn, the color of death is such a pretty shade."

All of these short sentences making up their own paragraph was just so distracting to me because I had to stop and think about how one object could be described as so many different things, and then contemplate the confusing sentences when the descriptions just because they were too over the top. Plus there were times when these descriptive sentences were the entire paragraph. As in a single paragraph would only be 1 sentence, or sometimes 2, and then there would be 3-4 of these paragraphs in a row instead of all combined into one. I understand that it was meant to make it read more like poetry but instead it just made question why it was reading so choppy.

Philosophical musings...
This happened a few times when one of the characters would start to think about their love for the other, their own fate, etc. This is one of those times when I can't tell the age of the narrator because these paragraphs sounds so mature. Plus I felt the need to reread the paragraphs because the first time through I would zone out. Not gonna lie, when reading a YA I am in a totally different mind set than when I read classic literature, so these sudden deep paragraphs totally throw me off.
One's life can change with a first. First words, first steps, first kiss, first kill. Nothing is ever the same after that happens. With your first words you can now speak to the world. Express opinions and voice concerns. First steps mean you are ready to choose your own path. You can be guided but no one can hold you back. First kiss tells the tale of young love. A youthful splendor in a lifetime of hope. First kill is when the world considers you psychotic, deranged, a monster to the world. What's worse is you consider yourself one, too."

My own confusion...FULL OF SPOILERS...Seriously read on at your own risk...
Piper's transformation into a wolf at the beginning of the book - (view spoiler)
Piper's transformation at the hospital- (view spoiler)
Toby - (view spoiler)
The age of the narrator - Not really a spoiler but still...(view spoiler)
Ryder's Dad - (view spoiler)
Ryder's reaction to Piper's wolf - (view spoiler)
Ryder's Hoodie - (view spoiler)

I loved the idea of Red as a boy and the wolf as a girl and their relationship. Instead of killing one another they are trying to save one another, It threw the entire fairy tail and thus all of my expectations on its head. I especially liked that Ryder wasn't your typical Prince Charming come to save the girl by whisking her off to a palace in the sky where he can afford to make all her dreams come true and turn her into a princess. Having Ryder be from a fixed income and somewhat broken family made him much more believable and true. I think a lot of people will really enjoy this novella and will appreciate the trumped up fairy tail and the lyrical writing, sadly it just wasn't for me. I still recommend it to those who liked the books I mentioned above my Taylor and Mantcheve as they have similar writing styles in my opinion.

As to all of my confusions listed above I am sure those aren't confusing to Greta at all and she could probably explain them all easily. But since I don't know everything that she knows about the characters/plot (I only know what is in the book and not in her imagination) I am still confused. Thus even though the plot was good, and the characters likable, the writing style had me skimming through to the dialogue just to keep track of the story, in an effort to finish.

I don't think I came off completely unbiased as my reviews are usually a bit harsher when I don't like things, but despite the difference in vocabulary used, the content is true to my personal opinion. I do wish I had liked the writing more, and I wish I could give it 5 stars just because Greta is awesome, but I gotta be true to my opinion.

I would totally recommend this book to people who love books about fairy tales that have been twisted, werewolves, and YA books such as Shiver.
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