Rowan the Strange, by Julie Hearn

Rowan the StrangeNote: I read this book for Nerds Heart YA, an underrepresented YA reading match, which is why this review is set up in this manner.

Pre-Read Thoughts

Cover: No doubt about it, this has got to be the worst cover I’ve ever seen. Hands down. It looks like a cheesy 80s RL Stine scary children’s books! I don’t know what the marketing department was thinking when it came to this one. I have to say up front that before ever reading a word in the book or about the book, I was already predisposed to view this negatively. Let’s just say it’s unlikely I ever would have read this if not for Nerds Heart YA.

Synopsis: This is historical fiction about a mentally unstable boy who goes to an asylum right around the same time England is going to war. From the Amazon synopsis, I can’t tell if the work they do on him in the asylum is going to make him worse or turn this into a paranormal book. Either way, I’m leery. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction and if this ends up being paranormal, I will not be happy at all.

Hype: I haven’t seen many reviews of this, but every single one has said that despite going in very leery, the book was absolutely wonderful. This gives me hope that despite the cover and the not-so-hopeful synopsis, I will actually enjoy this one.

Post-Read Thoughts

Writing: For the most part, the writing was good. Only one thing really bothered me. The point of view of the narration kept shifting randomly, quickly, without warning, from one character to another. I don’t mind a shifting narrative, but I like it to be organized. I had a hard time figuring out whose thoughts I was reading about at times.

Content: Well this was definitely not what I expected! Yay for no paranormal stuff! At first, I wasn’t sure it was going to work for me. I’ve read books about mental hospitals before and frankly none have ever compared to The Bell Jar, one of my favorite books. But this book turned out to be less about the hospital and more about how a person recovers when they are damaged. I felt like the background of war was at times a bit too much, but for the most part, I really settled into the book and enjoyed where it went. The end was satisfactory for me and the book never felt oversimplified. This book was definitely not what I was expecting, and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Oh, and I should say that I now understand why the cover looks the way it does, though I do think the concept could have been done much better, in a way that doesn’t look cheesy.

Emotional Connection: Again, for the first quarter of the book, I didn’t really have much of a connection to the characters, the same way I didn’t really connect to the content. However, once Rowan settled into the hospital, those connections suddenly grew. I felt close to Rowan, and I had a much stronger connection to Dorothea. Her story broke my heart. Likewise I sympathized much with the doctor and his situation, as well as the later test subjects. It wasn’t a book that made me cry, but it definitely made me feel.

In the End

I really enjoyed it, despite the cheesy cover! Glad to have read it.

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
This entry was posted in 2010, Prose, Young Adult and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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