Tim Bowler, Frozen Fire
Sometimes, I like to pick up a young adult’s book since they usually are quickly read and many of them are excellent and imaginative novels that can also be enjoyed by adults. Yet, Frozen Fire, written by Tim Bowler, who seems to one of the most appreciated writers for young adults in the UK, left me puzzled and disappointed.
Dusty is a sixteen-year-old girl who is a bit of a rebel. Since her brother Josh disappeared and her mother left, she has been left with many questions, and her father, a kind but weak man, does not provide much reassurance. Once, when her father is out on a date, Dusty answers a strange phone call: a young man, who pretends to be dying, says puzzling things to Dusty leading her to think that he knows what happened to her brother.
Dusty has now one goal: she wants to find the mysterious young man and confront him about her brother, but the young man is elusive, and also, could be very dangerous. Reports of his sightings are numerous, as well as reports of unspeakable acts he allegedly committed. Soon, a mob is after him and also after Dusty, who is suspected to help him.
Frozen Fire is a quite suspenseful supernatural novel, no doubt about it. My problem with it (beside the author’s poor writing style and mediocre descriptive powers, but let’s not get into this here…) is the absence of a true resolution to the riddle. In similar cases, there are two possibilities: the first is that the reader missed the clue or clues which enables to solve the whole thing ( I am an adult accustomed to reading about 2 books a week, very few of them which leave me with the feeling of not having gotten it, but, after all, I am only human and might have lacked concentration, but I just doubt it…), the second is that the author left to the reader the task to solve the mystery for him or herself, assuming he or she wishes to. I am OK with this as long as the clues are enough to arrive to an interpretation that makes sense. In this particular case, I call it a cop out: Tim Bowler had an idea but no clue where it was leading exactly, and did not hesitate to string the reader along to no end. What a lazy thing to do… (and I am not one of those readers who likes to have everything spelt out, but I think Bowler just took the easy way out, and I resent it). Young readers who rated this novel a five should read more novels, by different authors and in various genres, and come back to judge this one after they have enough material to compare. As for the novel being the winner of a prize (the Carnegie Medal), well, it is not the first time in the history of the novel that a mediocre book gets a distinction…
I am not sure I will try a Tim Bowler’s novel again. Try Sarah Wray instead, she writes really good mysteries for teens, carefully plotted and with everything neatly tied up in the end, and she doesn’t take the (young) reader for an idiot!