I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book on Goodreads. The summary depicted it as a time-travelling romance for a YA audience, which just ticked so many boxes for me and I was delighted when I won it. It’s author’s Steven Camden’s debut novel but he is known as a spoken-word performer under the name Polarbear across the UK.
Spanning two time periods, Tape is a unique story that connects Ryan and Ameliah, two teenagers separated by twenty years but bound together. In 1993, Ryan records a diary on a cassette tape talking about his regular teenage life as well as the death of his mother. In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after the death of her parents. She finds a cassette tape with a boy’s voice on it which appears to be speaking to her.
Throughout the course of the book, we’re kept guessing about the exact relationship between the two voices and it’s this that forces you to keep turning the pages. There are plenty of hints and clues via the echoes of each other in both Ryan and Ameliah’s narratives but it doesn’t become crystal clear until the end. Even though it is ultimately a children’s book, I couldn’t work it out fully and it was definitely this fact that kept my adult brain interested. I do love reading books from the points of view of teens but YA contemporary plots tend to be quite predictable -Tape’s definitely wasn’t.
The description “time travelling romance” isn’t exactly what Tape is about but there are of course elements of both time travel and the thread of romance runs through the entire story, binding the two narratives together. For a book primarily for pre-teens, it’s complex and incredibly intriguing. I was surprised to see that it has only got average ratings on Goodreads but I think you have to read it for what it is -a book for young readers. It’s not meant to be read by adults and therefore you can’t judge it based on language sophistication and plot complexity. It’s a great YA stand alone and I can’t wait to read more from Camden.