Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Amy Lynn

Amy Lynn is, as far as I know, the first and only novel written by Jack July (who comments over at the Ace of Spades HQ).  I'll admit I balked a bit at the $15.00 price tag for a physical copy of the book, but I was quite willing to spend $10 for the Kindle Version, which I did over the weekend.  I'm almost certain that was a better choice, since the physical book weighs in at a hefty 15 tons, I mean, four hundred twenty-some pages.

The blurb for the book on the Amazon website claims that Amy Lynn is the story of a "tomboy-ish girl" who grows up in rural Alabama.  That's mostly right.  Having now read the book, it might be more accurate to say it is about the life of a girl who grows up in Alabama.  Certainly Amy Lynn is the protagonist and heroine of the story, but the book is as much about her family as it is about her.

If you've got ten bucks to spend, you could do much worse than buying this on Kindle.  I'd recommend it, and give it a solid 4 / 5.

Synopsis/Spoilers/Deeper Review after the break:


Amy Lynn begins shortly after her home-town-hero brother's death in a tragic swimming accident (killed by cottonmouths).  We're introduced to her stubborn mule-headedness (in a good way) early on, when she decides to do all the chores on the family farm by herself- until then her brother had been doing most of them and she'd been helping.  When her uncle Jack swings by and tries to tell her not to do the chores, she essentially tells him to get lost.  That stubborn mule-headedness never leaves the girl throughout the book. 

The story follows Amy as she grows up in her little Alabama town of Black Oak.  Her father is a widower, and she handles almost everything at home- from chores on the farm until her little brother can help, to the cooking.  Her uncle is a bootlegger (that would be someone who runs moonshine, for those who don't know), who does so because it's fun (his wife is rich).  Most of the trials Amy faces are those of any young girl.  She is a bit of a tomboy, and loves to hunt.  That all changes with her rape at the hands of two boys she's been friendly to for their whole lives, and a boy taken in by their father, as said father watches.

That event shapes most of the rest of her life.  From learning how to be a cold-blooded killer (and that it's mostly not appropriate to be) from her ex-Navy SEAL uncle, to a brief lesbian relationship with a visiting swim instructor, to her first love, and eventually to joining the US Navy in the wake of 9/11 and events in the Middle East.  As she grows, she becomes a defender of the weak at her school, a state-record breaking swimmer, and generally one of the scariest people you're ever likely to meet.  Eventually the CIA becomes interested in her.  Their attempt to recruit her leads to the climactic scene, which I will not spoil, having spoiled enough of the book already. 

No.  Seriously.  Go read it for yourself.

The story itself was very, very good.  The writer uses a very rough mode of the language in his writing.  In other books that might have been a detriment.  In this one, however, it just keeps the verisimilitude going.  The characters (up until Amy Lynn joins the Navy) all speak with that country mode of speech; it is simply fitting that the book is written the same way.

If I have any problems with the book, they are these:
1) I don't like flashbacks.  Several times in the book, the story breaks to tell the history of some character.  These are as well written as the rest of the book, but they just didn't flow for me.  Moreover, they normally portrayed information concretely that I would almost have rather inferred.

For instance, Uncle Jack has several of these: one telling his own story, and two more telling the story of how he met and married his wife.  They all depict Jack as a man capable, when he feels the need, of great violence.  At one point, he decapitates an already-dead gang leader and puts his head on a post.  Yet, though the storytelling of these events is of the same quality of the rest of the book, the heroine herself doesn't know of them; which makes them somewhat superfluous.  As Amy advances through the Navy, she gains a lot of respect for being the niece of "Hatchet Jack."  To me, that alone would have been enough to establish him as a legitimately scary character.  The reader, well, this reader anyway, would have been completely willing to accept it on faith early in the book as long as it was verified at some point that he should be so scary- and that verification did come later in the book.

All-in-all, I don't think those flashbacks added anything necessary to the story.

2) The end.  Specifically that the end is not with Amy Lynn, but with another character met much later in the book.  This is simply a stylistic thing for me, and all the plot lines have been resolved sufficiently, so this may not bother other readers. 

3) Technical editing.  The fact that I'm mentioning this means it is somewhat jarring, occasionally.  Anyone who reads books regularly sees where an author and an entire editing team missed the fact that they placed the word "now" where they meant to have "know."  Really, that's a "no harm, no foul."  I can't remember the specifics as I write this, but there were a couple of times when the typographic errors were bad enough that they made me pull out of the story.

Even here, it is a testament to the author that I was quickly re-absorbed in the story.

Even for me this was a very compelling read.  I bought the book on Saturday, and finished the book Sunday morning at about 1:30 AM.  I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone.

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