Friday, March 6, 2009

Ripple Effect

Title: Ripple Effect (formerly published as Sudden Switch)

Series: Time Thriller Trilogy

Author: Paul McCusker

Genre: Tween (10-13) Sci-fi Alternate Reality

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Ripple Effect:

“I’m running away,” Elizabeth announced defiantly. She chomped a French fry in half.

Jeff looked up at her. He’d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. "You’re what?"

“You weren’t listening, were you?”
“I was too.”

“Then what did I say?” Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldn’t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.

“You were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about…about…” He was stumped.

“Christian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the…um—”

“French Revolution.”

“Right, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dad—”

As usual,” she said and savaged another French fry.

Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabeth’s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didn’t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.

A teenage girl swaps places with her lookalike in a parallel world.

The Craft: The writing of Ripple Effect was less than what was desired. While I brought my normal edge of skepticism to the book, the night I read this novel I was really hoping that it would pull me into the story.

It failed to do so.

While the premise is intriguing and some of the plot twists exciting, my attention kept wandering. The story never seemed to settle into any kind of rhythm. The characters fail to flesh out and connect with me. The voice falls frequently into telling what happened instead of showing, distancing the reader further.

Overall, the story didn’t provide the exciting adventure it promised.

The Content: Several themes wind in and out of the Ripple Effect—loyalty, the importance of friendship, the connection of family no matter how strange or embarrassing they are, to name a few. All are good, solid themes, appropriate for the age targeted. Most of them are shown effectively too.

That said, the spiritual thread felt forced. It didn’t flow with the rest of the story, but felt tacked on in a way that felt like the author felt it necessary to mention God a certain amount. If these references were removed, nothing in the story would have been affected. The result is a preachiness that will turn off most readers.

Summary: Ripple Effect is an okay story, clean but without those elements to make it a truly engaging tale. It can fill well a gap of time in the voracious reader’s schedule, but is not worth the effort to go out of your way to find.

Rating: Craft—1, Content—3, Overall—3.1 out of 5 stars.

Order Ripple Effect here.


Brandon said...

Another good, honest review.

Alexander Field said...

Thanks for the clear-eyed review of this new novel. Maybe he was trying to write down to the YA audience...?

Chawna Schroeder said...

While it is possible Mr. McCusker was writing down to the target age group, I actually suspect that the greater influence for the writing and content problems comes from his years working on the "Adventures in Odyssey" radio series, which has a very different feel and style from novel writing.

At least that's my take on it.