by Ty Roth
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February, 2011
List Price: $17.99
Review: I pressed pause, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine Shelly's face, but it's weird how soon you forget a dead person's face. I think it's because people wear so many of them that when you try to recall just one, you get a blurred blending that renders that one version, which you're trying so desperately to see, unrecognizable. This quote encapsulates the underlying theme in So Shelly, Ty Roth's debut novel. Loosely based on the lives of Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Blysshe Shelley, and Mary Shelley, So Shelly tells the story of three unique teens who are thrown together in an impossible time.
Told through the eyes of Keats, an academically advanced teen who is confident his early death is eminent, So Shelly tells the story of how he, young, skinny, and poor, comes to be friends with Byron, a published wealthy author who has broken every rule, traveled the world, and is the envy of all teen boys and girl's dream. Shelly is a romantic, an activist, and is generally unaccepted at school. She heads the school paper, which is where she meets Keats. Byron, on the other hand is Shelly's childhood best friend who barely speaks to her at school. However, when Shelly "mysteriously" drowns, Keats and Byron are pulled together to fulfill Shelly's final wish. They must steal her urn and spread her ashes along the coast of her favorite island while playing her favorite CD. Through this feat, they learn infinitely more about themselves than they'd ever expected, and they realize Shelly's death serves a far greater purpose than they'd realized.
As a character study, So Shelly, can't be beat. The three main characters in the story are described in exceptional depth. Keats has watched his father die, his mother die, and now he is watching his brother die. He "knows" he too will die young. This completely shapes his worldview which is shattered when he meets his polar opposite, Byron. Byron is the teen that every boy yearns to be. He has everything - money, looks, and girls - lots of girls. But it is through his interaction with Keats, that he realizes he really has nothing. And Shelly, on the other hand, is a bundle of energy, always looking for a cause, wanting to make a change in the world, possibly because she knows everything inside is falling apart. Roth's writing enraptures the reader into these teen's lives - some of it unbelievable, but all of it recognizable as they look through the high school hallways. Everyone knows a Shelly, a Keats, and a Byron, and So Shelly opens readers' eyes as to what makes them the way they are. So Shelly is filled with plenty of intrigue, romance, and humor to keep teen readers entertained, eagerly wanting more. But, what really adds a different dimension to So Shelly is the afterword where the author explains the connection between the characters and their namesakes. What a clever basis for a novel! Due to some explicit content and mature themes, So Shelly is best suited to older teen readers.
Review written by Margo Nauert (6th grade teacher).
We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of So Shelly for this review.
Have you read So Shelly? How would you rate it?