Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Review: The Namesake

The Namesake
The Namesake
By: Steven Parlato
Published by Merit Press
Release Date: January 18, 2013
Genre: YA contemporary
288 pages
Buy it on Amazon, IndieBound
 or Barnes and Noble
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

This review is challenging to write, since my thoughts on this book are at war with themselves. There are bits that I really enjoyed, yet several things that bothered me.

There were times when reading this book felt like a bit of a wild goose chase. Some choices made by the author seemed to lack purpose; for example, the hero is in the Talented and Gifted program, and is set to graduate at age 16, yet I was not able to find a particular reason that this was necessary for either plot or character development. Evan is supposed to be a great artist, yet we see very little of him actually creating art. Even at a point in the book where he is supposed to be painting, he gets little work done.There are characters that may have been better combined for the purpose of streamlining (Evan's aunts, for example). For this to work as YA, the whole body of work could use some tightening and streamlining.

I was frustrated by the promise of a relationship unfulfilled. Not only is there no romance, but Lexi, who is Evan's best friend, is absent for the majority of the book. Evan is effectively isolated in his quest for answers.  It's kind of a bummer that such a great character was so under-used. She is interesting and unique, with a back story that we only get samples of. I think I’d really enjoy reading her story.

There is a scene late in the book that is shocking. In the name of avoiding spoilers, I won't reveal what happens- but I will say that I think that if the author feels strongly that it should be there, then the novel should be marketed as an adult book. I am a believer in bibliocounseling, but this scene would cause me to avoid recommending the book to a kid dealing with similar issues as Evan. Because I know that teens identify closely with characters in the books they read, I think this plot choice is a bad idea for a YA read.

The good points of the book are equally strong. The plot line that deals with the school bully is both an important topic and perfectly realistic for a character live Evan. I thought that the author was right on target when choosing to make this character operate in the background, rather than making the easy choice to have him aggressively confront Evan on a regular basis. This makes the relationship between them both more realistic and more interesting to read.

There is a device, which leads to a whole plot thread, that explains the reason Evan is called Junior by his family. That part of the story is engaging, original and evokes strong empathy for the characters involved. It makes for excellent discovery, and readers will enjoy the surprise.

I think the best part of this book is the theme of finally learning who our parents are as people, apart from being parents. Every kid goes through a stage of coming to terms with the idea that their parents are people with their own thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with their children. Evan gets to know several of the adults in his life on a whole new level, discovering layers to their personalities that he hadn't previously considered. It's the doorway that leads away from the me-centered world of a teen, toward a more mature viewpoint. 

Overall, while I think there are parts of this book that are interesting and worthwhile, I think most of our regular readers would find this read a little frustrating. If you choose to pick it up, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Summary from GoodReads:

Gifted artist? Standout student? 

All his teachers are sure certain that Evan Galloway can be the graduate who brings glory to small, ordinary St. Sebastian's School. 

As for Evan, however, he can't be bothered anymore. 

Since the shock of his young father's suicide last spring, Evan no longer cares about the future. In fact, he believes that he spent the first fifteen years of his life living a lie. Despite his mother's encouragement and the steadfast companionship of his best friend, Alexis, Evan is mired in rage and bitterness. Good memories seem ludicrous when the present holds no hope. 

Then Evan's grandmother hands him the key--literally, a key--to a locked trunk that his father hid when he was the same age as Evan is now. Digging into the trunk and the small-town secrets it uncovers, Evan can begin to face who his father really was, and why even the love of his son could not save him.

In a voice that resonates with the authenticity of grief, Steven Parlato tells a different kind of coming-of-age story, about a boy thrust into adulthood too soon, through the corridor of shame, disbelief, and finally...compassion.


  1. It always feels like such a waste if authors create all this background for their characters and then don't use it - like the character being a painter/writer/something and then they never paint/write/anything. This book sounds interesting, but I don't think it's for me. Great review though (:

    Celine ~ Nyx Book Reviews

  2. Well, this book looks interesting. I love books that deal with bullying and other serious issues. This one is no exception.
    I my adding this to my TBR
    AWESOME review, Paula!
    Your reader,

  3. ....Oh. Oh no. I have this book to review-- and now I don't know if I'll like it! *le gasp* It sounds interesting, but the very adult scene you've mentioned...ick. I mean, I read YA. I don't want any adult-ness in my YA! :'(

    Another issue that it looks like I might have is character development. I can't help but want my characters to be absolutely fabulous and real, but this may just not do it for me.

    Awesome review, Paula!

    Megan@The Book Babe

  4. I appreciate you all visiting and commenting so much!


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