Between the Lines by Tammara Webber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I saw this one in Amazon's indie shop, and since one of my forthcoming indie novels also features the film industry, I was interested - the characters are the teenage cast of a remake of Pride and Prejudice. It also had great reviews, and I'll add my own. This is very strong writing and a good example of what indie can be - a forum for authors overlooked by the industry but talented enough to carry themselves. I think this book could have gone the traditional publishing route, and the author admits that's how she planned to go until she watched a panel of three YA agents lay down arbitrary laws about how to query (i.e. don't email at 3 am because it makes them "wonder about you"). I have to agree, that's self centered in the extreme, and if more authors like Webber skirt around agents and publishers, maybe they'll get a little hungrier and less judgmental.
As for book specifics, I'll start with the strengths. This writer has got great chops. A Jane Austen remake is a great setting because Webber, like Austen, does nearly all her work with dialogue and little in the way of scene setting. She excels at playing up all the things people don't say to each other, and thus has Austen's ability to get two people in love in the same room, alone, talking about love, without any actual communication. I bet I can guess which parts of the book were written all in one sitting and which ones weren't because there are some plotlines that unfold in a gorgeous, peeled off the back of the brain after hours in front of the keyboard kind of way that I hope to see more of from Webber. I should insert here a parental warning (meaning a warning to parents), there is a lot of underage drinking and sex here, though not all of the characters partake of the latter.
The weaknesses weren't enough to make me put the book down. There are several typos, misused words, scenes that don't advance the plot, talking heads in a white room (like I said, it's Austenian, but more scene setting would only make this stronger). There was also some oddness with the verb tenses as the book bounces between present and past tense, and I couldn't tell if that was intentional. If it was, I couldn't quite see what it was supposed to accomplish. Altogether, this is the quality of some first drafts I've seen by some very well known authors. I'd advise this author (assuming she even cares what I think) to consider hiring a freelance editor with good credentials if that's in budget, or sending her manuscript around to friends with editing experience, even if it's just an internship at a newspaper. One merciless read through to kill typos and get complete control of the verbs would take this up to traditional publishing standards on that score. Hope this author goes from success to success and makes all of the agents on that silly panel regret what their pettiness cost them.
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