Tuesday 11 November 2014

Book Review - Tin Lily

Tin Lily
Author: Joann Swanson
Genres: Contemporary | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 6th July 2014
Publisher: Cranky Owl Books
Pages: 235
Source: Review Copy - Cranky Owl Books
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
Just because you survive doesn't mean you’re alive.

One moment fifteen-year-old Lily Berkenshire is sitting in her bedroom, favorite song blaring through her earbuds, history book open on her lap. The next, her alcoholic father is shooting and killing her mother. Then he’s pointing the gun at Lily and pulling the trigger. Click. He’s out of bullets.

For now.

When she moves to Seattle to live with her aunt, Lily retreats into peaceful, dissociative trances to escape the shattered nightmare that is her life. Soon, though, she discovers a beautiful boy who wants to take her out, a therapist who wants to help her heal and new friends who believe she can find wholeness again. But her father wants something else entirely. He is hunting her and unless Lily confronts and heals the devastation inside her, she’ll forfeit her life to a father determined to end it.

Believe it or not, this was never originally a review. I started writing what was a letter to my Father as soon as I'd finished reading Tin Lily, telling him how and why his actions during my childhood allowed me to connect to and relate to this story as much as I did, and as much as that would have made for an interesting format, it turned out too much for me emotionally, way, too much for me. Yet there's not a single part of me that can leave this book without a recommendation, without an explanation or translation. With absolutely beautiful prose, writing as blissful and emotionally draining as you could imagine and a character I couldn't separate myself from, in all the reading experience ways possible, Tin Lily is a perfect read, but something was missing, something that can't rely on character development and twisted heartache, and that effected it's deliverance.

Lily was, beautiful. I have a soft spot for the name anyway, it's playful and innocent and sounds easily damaged, something beautiful, yet, represents heartache and death and I feel there is no better name for our main character than that. She was, the perfect character, she was written about so beautifully and felt so real and pure that I could experience my own trails, my own fears, my own life issues with her. Her journey is extremely personal, there's no such as privacy when it comes to Tin Lily, Swanson delved deep into the twisted yet utter devastation that occurs over the circumstances that Lily experiences and while I can't say I have have experienced the same events, Swanson's talent for making those feelings so relatable and tangible through Lily is one of a kind. Her development was slow and steady, painful and beautiful but most of all, it always felt realistic and never felt pushed or held back. There was a raw feeling to all the emotions, to everything Lily did and felt, from her own personal emotions to those she shared with Margie her Aunt, how they could share their traumas and pain with one another and give love and support to each other, to the emotions she shared with Nick, first love, relatability and a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, a person to understand, and even with Binka, how she was Lily's support, her tether, her anchor to the world and how her love for Binka was clear to see. I could not have loved Lily and those relationships anymore than I did, and I think she couldn't have been more perfect.

There's no real pacing involved with Tin Lily, it's the story of a girl who goes through an utter tragedy, a girl who's father murders her mother through an act brought on by his own childhood fears and terrors, it's not a story you can steadily pace through, it's the story, fictional, yet written to be terrifyingly true, of a young girls inner pain and lose and how she can make herself whole again and that's something nobody can criticise in terms of time. There's no definable plot, it's about a girls recovery, and the world building is almost none existent because to Lily, those things don't matter, she's too cooped in her emotions, in her world that she's in, her her darkness and her nothingness that the only things that make her future worth fighting are the people, and that's what is brightest about this novel. The world doesn't matter and the pacing and timing doesn't matter because when you read Tin Lily, I don't think you go into the read with an expectation of feeling the grass of the park under your toes, or the light of the sun on your face through the window, you read Tin Lily to experience the read, the appreciate life and to notice what and how you can make your day, make your life, and somebody else's a much more positive one.

Tin Lily is dubbed as a psychological thriller, as a book that will mess with your mind, but that's not how this novel felt to me - granted, this book really does screw with you, but more emotionally rather than mentally. I couldn't separate myself from Lily throughout her entire journey and story and this only made trying to reading this in a critical way fail entirely. You can't scrutinise a novel that tugs on your feelings so delicately, you can't pick faults in a novel that would leave you smiling with a sense of pure joy, to having tears pour down your face because of how much you can relate to the character, because of how much these characters went through and experienced, you can't pinpoint issues when you were too immersed in the story to leave it behind. Yet I can whole-heartedly admit that there was something that held me back about Tin Lily. In between all the tears, all the emotions, I couldn't help but feel that a novel like this couldn't be held together by only the characters, and there wasn't enough psych involved for me, although Hank, Lily's father's past is definitely dark and cruel and explains a lot, it just didn't quite give the complete vibe I was hoping for. As much as I would have liked something a tiny bit more, I don't think anymore would suit everyone.

I would recommend this everyone if I could, but I don't believe everyone would feel the way I feel, so I will tell you this. There are people in the world, like me, who have been told lies about themselves by somebody they trusted; they've been told they're stupid or worthless, that they have nothing worth contributing to the world, that they take up oxygen for other people, that they were unplanned, unexpected, unwanted, unloved, incapable, failures at what they do best, that they're incapable of keeping to themselves, that they can't help themselves, that they are nothing but flesh and bones and an empty hollow and it's these lies, these untruths that would allowed those people to connect to Lily in Tin Lily. I don't think somebody could read Tin Lily and appreciate it's meaning or relate to it at all unless they were one of these people, somebody who's been made to feel less than what they are, and the more these lies affected them, the more emotional this story will be for them. For me, this story couldn't have been more emotional and it couldn't have played with me so well, and while I feel that putting a rating on a novel like this is entirely barbaric, needs must..


  1. Oh whoa, this book has really touched you. It's a fascinating feeling to be able to connect to a character and her experience so well in a book. I totally get what you mean when you say only certain people would appreciate this book as much as you do, this is pretty much the precise words I used for This Song Will Save Your Life. I connected with Elise in that book so deeply that it really left a mark on me. And in the end I just want to say Amanda, you are a wonderful person, never let other people walk all over you and tell you who you are or how much you are worth, you are you and nothing less.

    Angel @ Spare Reads

    1. It definitely did touch me, I just had all the feels.. I've heard very little about This Song Will Save Your Life, but what I have heard is mostly positive and I'm highly considering reading it soon. Thank you so much Angel, that's really kind of you :)


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