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SO SHELLY by Ty Roth

SO SHELLY

By Ty Roth

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-73958-0
Publisher: Delacorte

Fatalistic teen narrator John Keats opens this tale with his observation that most of us don’t matter. Emotionally and financially distanced from his classmates at Trinity High, poor, doomed Keats delivers morbid statistics, occasional sermons about society’s evils and the story of George Gordon Byron and Michelle “Shelly” Shelley. He begins with a funeral and ends with a burial, relating Gordon and Shelly’s love/hate relationship between the two events. Like their namesakes (the Romantics Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, conflated to create Shelly, Lord Byron and John Keats), all three teenagers write, but their personal drama dwarfs their literary output. They are riveting but not entirely sympathetic characters, particularly Gordon, whom Keats portrays as a callous genius and womanizer. Roth supplements the namesakes’ original scandals with abortion, alcohol, incest, masturbation and swearing. As anguished writers and tortured teens are universal, the narrative offers a powerful dose of modern teen cynicism and yearning; a subplot involving freedom fighters unnecessarily complicates an already full story. Lurid yet literary. (afterword, bibliography) (Fiction. 14 & up)