Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Take Me There (Dean)

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AUTHOR: Carolee Dean
SERIES: none
ISBN: 9781416989509
PAGES: 320
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: realistic
GIVE IT TO: HS students who like both murder mysteries and romance
SUMMARY: Seventeen-year old Dylan hasn't made the best choices. Recently released from juvenile detention, Dylan is really trying to turn his life around. Although he still can't read, Dylan has found a good job and has fallen for a beautiful, rich girl who seems way out of his league. But when Dylan is caught on the wrong side of a gang initiation, Dylan runs. In violation of his probation, Dylan leaves the state and drives to Texas to visit his father, who is on death row for a murder 11 years ago.

REVIEW: The first half of Take Me There focuses on Dylan and how as a young boy, he moved frequently, got into trouble, landed in juvenile detention, got out, and is now making real effort to turn his life around. The unlikely romance between bad boy Dylan and wealthy, unattainable Jess is sweet and reminds me of Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry books. Dylan's character is believable and easy to like, and his insecurities about being illiterate help humanize Dylan despite his shady past. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Dylan is a handsome, sensitive poet; teen girls will swoon over Dylan's beautiful poetry and unwavering desire to stay out of trouble.

The romance of the first half is much more engrossing than the mystery of the second half. Once Dylan unintentionally commits two crimes in the same night and runs off to Texas, the story becomes overly dramatic and much less interesting. The focus turns to Dylan's past, particularly his father's incarceration for murder eleven years ago. For me, the murder mystery part of the story isn't nearly as compelling as Dylan's struggles to maintain a simple, honorable life and get the girl. For a while, Jess is almost completely out of the picture except in Dylan's thoughts. Dylan's loyal but naive friend Wade makes a series of stupid decisions, and somehow, he is allowed to ride off into the sunset guilt-free simply because he abruptly "finds God." The (predictable) murder mystery and ensuing drama detract from what was an uplifting, realistic story of redemption and moving on from past mistakes. At times, I also sensed the author was pushing an anti-capital punishment, pro-religion agenda. It isn't overt, but I noticed it.

Without giving away the ending, I'll just say I found it depressing and kind of pointless. For a story that is initially uplifting and hopeful, the ending really stinks.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Don't let the front cover fool you--this book is NOT a romance. I ordered Take Me There before I finished it, thinking it would be a great read for my Perfect Chemistry fans, especially since it contains less language and sexual content than PC. While Dean's writing talent is clear, the story's dual personality makes me wonder exactly whom I would recommend it to. My romance readers would like the first half, but my mystery fans would prefer the second half. I wish it had been more consistent, or better yet, two separate stories.


READALIKES: Dovey Coe (Frances Roark Dowell); Perfect Chemistry (Simone Elkeles; Trino's Choice (Diane Gonzales Bertrand); The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
  • Language: medium; some language sprinkled throughout (including the F-word), but it is not gratuitous
  • Sexuality: medium; intense kissing; some talk of intercourse, but none takes place; talk of rape, but none takes place
  • Violence: medium; one murder occurs, a past murder is described several times (esp. bloody curtains and walls)
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium-high; multiple instances of teen drinking and drug use/dealing drugs

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