Title: Tell the Story to Its End
Author: Simon P. Clark
Format: eARC, kindly
provided by St Martin's Press
to review. (Thank you!!)
My rating: 3 / 5
In this beautiful, haunting debut, a boy is whisked away to the country in the wake of a scandal, and finds a captivating creature in the attic whose attention comes at a sinister price.
"Tell the story to its end," says Eren with a grin.
His yellow eyes are glowing like embers in the night.
"When I reach the end," I say, "what happens? You'll have the whole story."
"Hmm," he says, looking at me and licking his lips with a dry, grey tongue. "What happens then? Why don't we find out?"
People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him why his dad where his father is. Why isn't he with them? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, and only an old, empty house in the middle of an ancient forest for answers. But then he finds a secret of his own: there is a creature that lives in the attic…
Eren is not human.
Eren is hungry for stories.
Eren has been waiting for him.
Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what’s happening downstairs with his family. But what if it’s a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth—or abandon himself to Eren’s world, forever.
-- As seen on Goodreads
*I received an eARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t influence my opinion in any way.*
Right after I finished reading Tell the Story to Its End, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Even now, a couple of days later, I still can’t quite figure out how I feel. My feelings and opinions are sort of stuck on the fence, and I keep swaying back and forth between things I enjoyed and the things I didn’t enjoy quite as much.
Twelve year old Oliver – Oli – is our main character. His mum whisks him off unexpectedly to the small country village where she grew up called Coxborough over the summer holidays to stay with an aunt and uncle he’s never met. His dad hasn’t come with them, and he’s told his father will follow soon when he has finished up some business in London. Oli begins reading between the lines and noticing that things aren’t adding up, but the adults he’s surrounded with won’t give him any answers, and will brush his questions to the side. He’s encouraged to explore the local village where he meets Emma and Takeru, and quickly becomes friends with both. His uncle encourages him to explore the house, and while Oli is exploring the attic, he meets Eren, a creature who survives on stories.
Firstly, I really like the overall concept of Tell the Story to Its End, and how stories never really end, and that they continue on long after they’ve been told as long as someone is there to tell them. The writing style is lovely, and some of the descriptions and imagery is fabulous. I really liked the stories and fables that were told throughout the book. They were beautifully described and so easy to imagine, and being honest, these little stories were my favourite parts of the book.
The characters are usually what I connect with first when I read, and sadly I didn’t connect with Oli. Maybe I’m looking at things without removing my adult eyes, but Oli grated on my patience quite a few times. I could understand why he was frustrated with being kept in the dark about where his father was, but it wasn’t enough to make me empathise or care for his character. I thought Oli’s friends, Em and Takeru, were more interesting overall, and I would have liked to have known more about them. In general, though, I don’t feel I really clicked with any of the characters, and I think this is the main reason why I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. The characters are a huge reason why I read, and to not click with them on some level is always a disappointment.
This leads onto the biggest sticking point I had: I don’t really see where the author was going with the story. Considering this is quite a short book, I was expecting quite a lot of action to happen very early on, and for the atmosphere to build up quite quickly. I didn’t feel any of the build-up or atmosphere I was hoping to experience and it was a bit surprising that nothing much happened for well over 55–60% of the book. I really liked trying to figure out just what Eren was, and I really wish we got more concrete answers, but the mystery surrounding Oli’s father didn’t hold my attention, and it felt a little half-hearted rather than a vital part of the story.
I can’t help wishing this book wasn’t middle grade and that the characters were a little bit older, and more themes that were briefly touched on were explored in more detail. I don’t mind open endings, providing the most important story arcs are satisfactorily explained and wrapped up. This ending wasn’t one I liked, though, and I did feel it was a bit of a let-down. Overall, I did like and enjoy Tell the Story to Its End, but it didn’t end up being quite as captivating as I was hoping it would be. I do seem to be in the minority with my feelings, so don’t let my opinions stop you from picking up the book and giving it a chance!