Book Review: The Tramp by Sarah Wathen
Title: The Tramp
Author: Sarah Wathen
Genre: Mystery, YA
Amazon rating: 4.8 stars
At first glance, Candy was a pretty little seven-year-old girl like any other in Shirley County. She was prone to singing and dancing and splashing in the rain, in her yellow polka dot bikini and her favorite red galoshes. John was a normal little boy and he loved playing with his best friend, Candy. But their bond drew a darkness that had long stayed hidden in a small, southern mountain town. Sometimes the truth is in the things you can’t see.
Something happened all those many years ago, and it can never be forgotten.
But our story begins long after that, when Candy and John are teenagers. John, caught up in the business of life, stops spending his summers in Shirley County. And Candy, hurt and lonely at first, moves on as well. She meets Sam, the new boy in town. Even though she has never ventured more than a hundred miles from her home, she has never felt at ease there. Always at odds with her high school friends, her church, her family—and bored with her small town existence—she finds the adventure she needs in Sam. He is cool, confident, independent, and Candy likes that. He lives on the fringes of society, and perhaps she likes that, too. But even with Sam in her life, she is sometimes overcome with a sense of dread, like a shadow has passed, just on the edge of vision. And sometimes the truth is in the things you won’t see.
Something was awakened all those many years ago, that can never be undone.
When John finally does find his way back, it’s to a Shirley County that is much more disturbing than he remembers. He’s accosted by strange dreams and preoccupied with his grandfather’s visions—the evidence scrawled so frantically that the paper is ragged and torn. Howling animal masks and flailing human figures. Teeth sharp as razors. Wherever John tries to find reason in the madness, he’s blocked by evasion and dead ends. He doesn’t miss his old friend Candy’s new secrets, either. And John’s once comforting presence becomes unwelcome, when he uses the brilliant mind Candy has always trusted to turn up troubling information on Sam’s past. Despite the confusion of strained friendships, new romance, and high school intrigues, John and Candy begin to suspect something more sinister lurking amidst the days of football glory and the nights of clandestine rendezvous. And then there is a murder. Sometimes the truth is in what you must see to survive.
There are dark spirits in the mountains of Shirley County, and one of them is bent on revenge.
Reviewed by: Katheryn J. Avila
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked up The Tramp. Going by the synopsis, I thought it would a supernatural high school drama, but as I read on, it seemed more like a small-town drama with few, if any, supernatural touches.
When the story starts, the reader is treated to the events that lead to John and Candy’s friendship – however, after the prologue, we don’t see the two main characters again for a while (Candy in chapter 2 and John in chapter 17). To me, that was a bit confusing, as the author introduces us to several characters right from the beginning, some we don’t hear about again until much later in the story and only in a passing mention (such as the tourists from the first chapter). For a while, every chapter switches to different groups of characters, sometimes making the story a bit hard to follow, resulting in a plot that almost doesn’t seem linear. At times, I’d forget about certain characters and then have them pop up again as the people we follow in the chapter, throwing me for a loop when I was more interested in what was going on with Candy. There was so much going on in the pages of the book, that at times it felt like the author was trying to do too much – and it was a little overwhelming for me as a reader. This seemed to die down a bit in the latter half of the story, so that everything flowed a little more naturally.
As the story continues, we get to know each character, making for a fairly large cast. Handling a cast that large can be pretty difficult, but the author does it pretty well, so that most of them are pretty well-rounded (though a bit hard to keep track of at times). I can picture meeting people like them in real life, which is part of what continued to carry me through reading it. The characters seemed real, and their problems – though petty for many of them – were enough to keep me going. There were a few times where I thought some of the characters may have been a bit cliche, but it served the purpose of the story, so it was necessary. Over all, the story seemed to be driven by the plot, rather than the characters, so that Candy and John were more reactive than proactive.
Being the first in a series of books, the end of the novel leaves the reader with many questions – hopefully to be answered in the future. The mysteries that do get addressed are looked at only briefly, so that the answers we get by the end of the book are not enough to feel any sort of closure, which is the point if you want people to read the next installment, so the author does a good job of keeping the reader guessing and asking for what comes next.
Conclusion: All in all I enjoyed reading The Tramp. The cast of characters are an interesting group of people and the closed-minded, small-town dynamic intriguing enough to keep the mystery going. If you’re into things like Pretty Little Liars and other high-school drama types, you might want to check out The Tramp.
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