The Book by Jessica Bell (Review and Giveaway)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
When the chance came to review another of Jessica Bell's books, I jumped at it. I loved her writing exercise and instruction book:  Show & Tell in a Nutshell! This novella, The Book, caught my attention immediately--mostly because of the different formats--journal entries, doctor/patient transcripts, and narrative in a child's voice. I know I've already caught your interest with just that list, so wait until you read on. . .

It doesn’t take a tome of 500 pages to tell a powerful, gripping and captivating story. Jessica has managed to do this in less than 150 pages in The Book. Jessica, also an author of poetry and nonfiction, takes on a unique voice for one of the narrators of her book—a five-year-old child, Bonnie; she truly captivates this voice, taking the reader through the story of the girl’s estranged parents and herself trying to figure out her young and confusing life full of adults always acting strangely.

The title comes from a book, which most would call a journal or diary, that Bonnie’s parents started writing in before she was even born. John, her father, has the idea to write special messages to his daughter and to give “The Book” to her when she is older. Penny, her mother, is the one who actually writes in it more, and eventually it becomes a diary for her mother, more than a message for the daughter.

The Book is divided into three parts: “Love is the Beginning,” “Love is a Weapon,” and “Love is Tangible.” In each part, Penny or John tell their side of the story and their feelings through their writings in “The Book”; Bonnie adds to the story through her narration for the reader; and transcripts of Bonnie speaking to a psychiatrist, Dr. Wright, are also included. All of these parts and various techniques work together to complete the story of Bonnie and her parents.

The reader learns that John and Penny don’t stay together after Bonnie’s born, and Penny starts a new relationship with Ted—who has a temper with a violent side. Bonnie explains to the reader what she sees going on in the lives of the adults around her, from her dad’s new family to her mom’s emotional side to “my Ted’s” outbursts.

Bonnie sees the biggest problem as “The Book.” She thinks it is what causes the difficulties in her life and the lives of her loved ones. She wants to destroy it and is just waiting for the chance to get it away from her mother and make everything better for everyone.

Jessica Bell
What Jessica does so well in this short novel is take on the different voices of the characters—readers will be able to hear the child trying to figure out her world in Bonnie’s narrative, while sympathizing with John and Penny who aren’t sure if they made the right choice to split apart. When Jessica writes as John in “The Book,” he has a distinct way of writing, which is different than Penny—this distinction and technique with voice are the marks of a talented writer.

The ending is shocking and can be somewhat disturbing, but it’s realistic, heartfelt, and certainly satisfying after spending several hours getting to know the characters in The Book.

Jessica is a native-Australian who lives in Athens, Greece. She is also a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. She makes a living as an editor and writer for English language teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning. She also runs the Homeric Writers' Retreat and Workshop in Ithaca, Greece, which is an annual week-long workshop for writers with instruction from experts in the field. Recently, she re-released her full-length novel, String Bridge, complete with a cover makeover, and is giving away the digital version of the accompanying soundtrack (which is amazing, by the way!) with every purchase.

The Book is a fast read, but one that you will want to read again. The characters are complex, which makes the story memorable, and a great one to discuss in a book club. If you haven’t checked out anything Jessica Bell has written yet, then why not start with The Book?

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction novel.


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Jessica Bell said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful review. Very glad you enjoyed it! :-)

Margo Dill said...

I did! And I love the different formats in it. I love books like this, and I know a lot of people do too. :)

Anonymous said...

Been a fan on FB and Twitter and following the book tour-- best to you Jessica. You've been busy and looks like you have another success.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Wonderful review, Margo! I had an opportunity to read THE BOOK and loved the format. It fit this particular story perfectly, and I'm so glad Jessica decided to tell it that way. It is a fast read, but it's also full of suspense. I don't want to give it away, but the ending gave me chills! I did not see it coming.

Matthew MacNish said...

Writing even parts of a novella from the POV of a five-year-old must be extremely difficult, but I know Jess well enough to know she probably pulled it off with style.

Hope Clark said...

Good review. You have intrigued me now. I may have to step outside my mysteries and take a peek at this.

Hope Clark

LuAnn Schindler said...

Sounds interesting. I'm with Hope - may have to step away from the usual genre and check this out! said...

Sounds like a great read
Diane Baum

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