Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Photo Traveler by Arthur J. Gonzalez

*Honest Review Requested by Author in Exchange for Free eBook
Published: February 20 2013
Publisher: Fahrenheit Publishing
Website: Book’s Website

            17-year-old Gavin has had a terrible life. His foster family treats him like dirt, and his alcoholic father beats him. He decides to take the plunge and find his biological grandparents to confront them about why they did not seek custody when his biological parents died. Estelle and Bud are the most wonderful and kind grandparents ever who had reason to keep Gavin away from them-they are photo travelers. Photo travelers can enter photographs and travel to the location and time. If they are not careful, they can alter the past. This ability has created different points of views within the traveler community, and Gavin has to fight to protect his new life.

As a paranormal YA novel, I particularly liked the concept of photo traveling. I’ve seen the concept of traveling through photos before, but not to the exact time that the photo was taken. The concept is fun, especially for a teenager who craves agency in this world. The bad guys are over-the-top with their outfits and violence, but for a YA novel, this is nothing new. It clearly marks them as the villains and the “other” figures.

The story lacks realistic development. First, I have to take in that 17-year-old Gavin has had the worst life ever. Then, he has the unique ability to travel into photos (a.k.a. superpowers). And he gets the best life ever-awesome grandparents, awesome school, awesome best friend, and an awesome job. The love story is simply too unbelievable for me. It is too rushed. People need to hang out more and actually get to know one another for a worthy relationship to happen. In real life you’ll see people who proclaim their love for one another after a week and it will induce eye-rolling. Gavin and his girl meet and then about five minutes later they are all over each other. The love story is jammed in there with a hammer and it’s noticeable. I disliked all the pages associated with it.
Some of the events are terribly forced: such as a confrontation in a museum because Gavin accidentally stepped on a stranger’s toe and the nail ripped off, explained by the fact that they guy just had surgery. He also shoots a gun when he is so scared he holds his breath because he associates guns with a death that took someone important away from him. And he gets a bulls-eye, when he has never fired a gun before, ever. As someone who has been to a firing range and knows that firing takes actual skill and practice, I just rolled my eyes and flipped the page.

Grammar, Spelling, and Writing
The text also has minor spelling and grammar errors, such as using the word “latter” when it is supposed to be “letter”, and the incorrect use of quotation marks in long dialogue by one person. The writing is a bit flat for a YA novel, but it is not terrible. It is unwise to insert purple prose into fiction written for teens, but this is pretty pared down to the bare minimum without it being minimalist. The words on the page are just there. Not exceptional, but they get the job done.

Gavin is an unlikable guy sometimes. He is impulsive and has these unacceptable outbursts of anger. He doesn’t grow as a character and he doesn’t acknowledge his immaturity. In fact, he gets worse. The biggest plot twists happen because he is screwing up and this makes the book exhausting. It’s hard to connect with him, so it might be difficult to keep reading if you don’t care about Gavin.  

            I hate the cover. It’s so uninspired. This book is about photo traveling, so how about a whole bunch of photos, illustrations, paintings, and text books strewn on a surface? Yes, they have purple eyes when they are traveling. But to someone who hasn’t read the book, the purple eyes don’t mean anything to them.

            The book has an interesting concept that will excite many teens. Traveling into photos to experience a different time period and possibly altering history is a fun idea for teens who desire freedom and agency. The protagonist is unlikable most of the time and the other characters are flat clich├ęs. Writing is alright but nothing spectacular. If you like paranormal fiction, time travel, and sad stories of abused teens finding a loving home, I recommend this.