Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Goodreads review, last updated January 05, 2012

Have you ever wondered what would happen if all the YA heroes and heroines got together to discuss the times they saved the world?

Jace&Clary: "We stopped our dad from starting a demon apocalypse and then got together."

Edward&Bella: "We stopped a vampire war after we made a demon baby parasite."

Bethany&Xavier: "We tripled the visits to our local church!"

Everyone else: *blank stare* "Dude, that is so lame."

Seriously, our reality has been put in danger so many times that I'm surprised none of those super villains hasn't succeeded yet. Wonder what would happen when one does?

What I mean to say is that books nowadays need some kind of earth-shattering calamity to get a story going. It takes a special kind of talent to just write a simple tale of a person taking on a journey.

Holly, the protagonist of "Solace on the Road", literally goes on a journey. She's been in foster care for years, ever since her Mum had to disappear off to Ireland, but has always dreamt of joining her one day. After her friends from the home start moving on, and tensions begin to arise in her new foster family, she decides that it's high time she goes through with her plans. She dons a wig, leaves a flippant note and takes off.

As Solace, a slim-slam glamour girl, Holly is able to do a lot of things she has never dared to do - bluff, lie, drink, shoplift. She travels along the A40, from London through Oxford to the shores and even gets on a ferry to Ireland. But the further she goes, the more problems she encounters, and the cracks begin to emerge in Solace's perfect image.

"Solace on the Road" isn't a hard book to get into. Unlike most YA books nowadays, it doesn't need bombastic opening sequences and crazy conspiracies to hook the readers. While on the surface this is a journey story, the intention is only internal - for the most part, it's Holly and Solace, marching on together, exploring the innermost depths of their heart. 

Siobhan Dowd was probably one of the best contemporary YA writers. Ever. 

I don't make that statement lightly, especially considering how little contemp YA I've read, but seeing her books, I cannot imagine coming across something that resonates with me as strongly as her books do. I thought so with "A Swift Pure Cry", but "Solace on the Road" well and truly cemented that opinion for me.

Holly is not an easy person to love. She does not want to be loved. Her only desire is to be together with her Mum again, and go back to the kind of sweet reality she had as a little girl. The grown-up reader would easily see the problem with that and shake their head with sadness at her tragedy...

Except there is nothing tragic about Holly. In spite of the hardships, in spite of the pain, in spite of the fact that her very world is burned to a cinder by the end of her journey, she has a kind of an internal power that drives her forward and makes her shine. She doesn't slow down and she doesn't look back, just moves forward, fighting and fighting even when there seems to be nothing left to fight for. 

Holly is glorious. I have no other way of describing her.

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