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Tape by Steven Camden

Tape is only Steven Camden’s first novel, but because of the elegance of the writing, the sympathetic characters, and the intriguing premise, you certainly wouldn’t be blamed for thinking otherwise.

While aimed at young adults, if you are over 25, then you’ll find this novel nostalgic. You’ll remember the days of playing your own tapes, and accidentally pushing the play & record buttons at the same time (who designed those buttons to be so close together!). You’ll remember that crackly sound of an old tape, and how the background noises made recordings seem like there was another presence there. But if you are a young adult, and don’t have a clue why a pencil and a tape should go together, don’t worry there is much, much more to this novel.

At first the novel’s plot sounds a little like The Lakehouse, with messages being passed back and forth between two people in different times. In Tape, Ryan in 1993 records his thoughts on a tape, while in 2013 Ameliah listens, and it seems as if the boy on the tape is talking to her. However, despite the novel’s name, and the slightly supernatural feel, this novel is more about the way stories interweave than the actual tape.

Ryan is easy to sympathise with. He’s dealing with a lot of change in his life. His mother died and now he and his dad have moved in with Ryan’s new stepmother and stepbrother, who he doesn’t exactly see eye to eye with. He’s dealing with issues that teenagers today can relate to just as much. How to deal with a new family situation, and how to get the girl. In fact, this book really drives the point that teenagers of any generation are not that different.

Ameliah is also dealing with a loss. Both her parents have died, and she can’t quite let go of them. She struggles with this loss by hunting through her mother’s old belongings. And it is there she finds the tape. The voice on the tape is inaudible most of the time (it is twenty years old), but when she can hear it, the voice seems to be speaking to her.

The way their stories begin to interweave is done through a lot of juxtaposition at first. Ryan struggles with how to talk to the girl next door in one chapter, and in the next, Ameliah contemplates how to talk to the boy she has a crush on. And so it flows until you begin to wonder when they will cross over completely.

The question of who Ryan and Ameliah are to each other is certainly a question that remains throughout the plot, and it gives it an element of mystery, but it is the characters’ journeys that are much more enjoyable to read. It is not a fast-paced, action-packed book. Plot twists are revealed slowly, delicately. While not as emotionally poignant (or gut-wrenching in many cases) as John Green’s novels, Steven Camden’s writing style certainly has a familiar feel. In fact, if you are a fan of John Green, then I suggest that you get your hands on a copy of Steven Camden’s Tape right now.

REVIEWER: JJ McConnachie


AUTHOR(S): Steven Camden

PUBLISHER: HarperCollins

RRP: $29.99