Monday 29 September 2014

Book Review - A Song for Ella Grey

A Song For Ella Grey
Author: David Almond
Genres: Mythology, Contemporary | Young Adult
Release Date: 2nd October 2014
Publishers: Hodder Children's Books
No. Pages: 272
Source: Review Copy - Hodder Children's Books
Buy From: Don't.
"I'm the one who's left behind. I'm the one to tell the tale. I knew them both.. knew how they lived and how they died."

Claire is Ella Grey's best friend. She's there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world.

This is her story - as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.

Please be aware this review is not positive at all. If you're touchy on negative reviews, can't handle other peoples honest opinion or feel you'll be insulted by the following, look away now.

It is common knowledge that no matter how bad a reading experience personally is, I will always do my utmost to talk lightly on the subject, finding the positives in a novel that might just appeal to other people, but with A Song for Ella Grey, that nicely nicely approach is being hung out to dry, decapitated and most all, destroyed. You want my simple opinion on this novel? Simple, forget it exists. Forget about that beautiful cover the fact it's based off an easily forgotten Greek Myth. Forget that you considered this novel and have been waiting for my thoughts before you made a choice. Forget everything. The long winded opinion? Buckle in..

Lets start with the writing, or what I actually managed to understand from the writing. Some writing formats can prove fantastic, like the one in We Were Liars, while others can be description wonderful but not have substance in other areas of the novel like Immortal Rules, but A Song for Ella Grey had neither. The writing was, quite frankly, awful. I live in North West of England and know my tongue quite well, but what was meant to be Northern English in this novel was just gibberish. Nobody I know says 'bliddy' instead of 'bloody', even when it's spoken it doesn't sound at all that way, but the actual choice of words wasn't the only issue. The actual layout, feel and general appearance of the writing felt as though a primary school child had written it. lack of punctuation, no fresh lines per speaker in conversation, writing so simple not an inch of world could be created from it at all. I would love to rip apart the writing in this novel, but honestly, there's no an awful lot to say about it, it was weak, it was undeveloped, it was disappointing and bored me to tears, not to mention was illegible in so many areas I actually skipped chapters and didn't miss a single moment.

Onto the entirely 2D, childish, unrealistic, unbelievable, mess of characters. That's right. Characters that, at the age of seventeen, kissed each full on the lips like friends and thought nothing of it. Characters whom delved into sexual activities without a care in the world, like they were brushing their teeth. Characters that spoke like they hadn't attended any form of education. Characters that were quite frankly, stark raving bonkers. These people had no substance, no personality, nothing to have them stand out from one another. They were illogical, immature, naive and constantly drunk. They had no idea what was right from wrong, normality vs insanity. For crying out loud, Ella's friends let her marry a man that she had known for maybe a month or so, that was clearly older than her, that was clearly a stranger, that was obviously missing a few screws and that obviously should not have been trusted. Claire was just- Claire I was confused about. I couldn't make out whether her feelings for Ella were completely friend related or whether this was in fact a LGBT feature within the novel, because seriously, their random kisses in the middle of scenes seriously threw me. Ella was, a mess. Simple and short. She was insane. She lacked any brains. She really just, needed to visit the madhouse. All of the other characters, (god only knows their names, I can't remember them), were just, there, they did nothing worth mentioning and contributed nothing towards the story whatsoever.

Ah, the story you ask! It's a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice according the synopsis, it's Greek Mythology, tell us all you ask of me, but no, because this is not a retelling. This one man's attempt to throw in a myth, completely unedited, into a story that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Almond didn't adapt this myth, turn it into a 21st century romance that spanned past death and beyond, no, he put Orpheus into a beach meeting with lots of children, had him play his lyre for what seemed like forever, then talked to Ella down the phone and played a song to her. (yes, this is where they fell in love apparently. Not exactly the 21st century love story you were looking for, no?) They he somehow finds her, (stalker much?!) and they have a few late nights wanderings and claim that they've loved each other for their whole lives due to fate (which is essentially what happens in the myth.) They marry and somehow shortly after the marriage, Ella dies (also, exactly what happens in the myth.) Orpheus travels to hell to gain Ella back, manages to gain her back, fucks it up and loses her again (also, exactly like the myth). Now I don't know about you, but I like my retellings a little more, oh, I don't know, realistic maybe? Don't make your characters so fake and unreal that I genuinely care more for the myth than your sorry story of a retelling. Don't throw the entire plot of the myth into one damn section of the book hoping that that will make up for the insanity that was the rest of the book because it won't.

This is not a retelling, and as someone who knows her way around a myth or a hundred, I am insulted that this is even being called that, let alone 'the most beautiful book you'll read this year'. No, this book is a mess. A complete, incoherent mess, ruining a great myth of love, nature, destiny and fate and rubbing it with shocking writing, characters so boring they'd have been better invisible and a plot that really, just made no sense. If you haven't guessed by now, I despised this book and everything about it. I read it all the way through because, for some insane reason, I hoped it would improve, but alas, it did not and I will never gain back the two hours of my life I spent reading A Song for Ella Grey. I would not recommend this book to anyone, ever, not even people who enjoyed dysfunctional writing and characters with no backbone. I would not advise you go against my opinion and try this for yourself because I honestly believe you would regret it. This is not the book for you. This is not the book for people trying to get into greek mythology retellings. This is not a book worthy of the paper it's written on, and I will never be considering any of Almonds work again.


  1. Oh I definitely wouldn't encourage you reading this. Definitely avoid it Genie :)

  2. I wish I had read your review before requesting and reading the book. It would have saved me from a few hours I could have spent with another novel, but alas! Suppose there are some advantages to reading a not so good book every now and then, even if it's just to have some quality diversity :p

    1. I feel exactly the same way, it's such a shame that this was a waste of a good hour or so!
      I agree though, a really bad read just makes you appreciate the really good ones, am I right? :)


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