So Shelly is a YA novel that imagines the famous poets Keats, Byron, and Shelley into present-day high school students, written by Ty Roth.
High school Junior John Keats met Shelly while working on the school newspaper. A poet, but a shy and agonizing one, he couldn't help but be entranced by her energetic spirit. That's also where he met Gordon Byron, already a published and lauded author of a best-selling YA book. He doesn't care for the arrogant, good-looking jerk - but Shelly has been friends with him since she was very young.
When Shelly dies by drowning in a sailing accident, Gordon and Keats can't help but be thrown together by their mutual grief. They steal Shelly's ashes, per her mysterious instructions before dying, and try to make it to Lake Erie where she wished to be scattered while her favorite song played.
In the meantime, Keats reflects back on his short but memorable time with Shelly - and the night she got drunk and told him almost every detail of Gordon's life. Gordon fills in the blanks. And they realize that might be what Shelly wanted...
So Shelly is surprisingly, scandalously sexual as we are briefed on Gordon's exploits. It was honestly quite a bit more than I personally prefer or expected! Now, it is vibrantly voiced by the less bold Keats and has an interesting tone - never boring - but so off-puttingly male-oriented and lascivious that I never could really come to like So Shelly at all.
The novel felt much more suited to the adult genre, and even then not a particular one that I would seek out. There is a determinedly uncomfortable and unrelatable quality to the novel that is strangely artistic and would appeal to certain tastes most certainly, I'm sure, but for me was not necessarily likable.
As it continued, I felt it became monotonous, seeming to focus on outrageous exploits, touching only occasionally on deeper issues, but never grounding the novel in reality. Thing is, I could clearly see Ty Roth's writing talent and could appreciate the understated reimagining of these romantic poet icons as modern teenagers, but So Shelly is definitely just not my type of book.
The afterword was enlightening and interesting, in which Ty Roth explains the correlation to his characters to fact and rumor involving these historical figures. I had no idea how crazy and, I'm sorry to say, gross all these poets were! It was rather fascinating to see how closely he portrayed the events in So Shelly to this information, and as I said earlier I am sure there are many readers who love to delve into the darker, more depraved mindset of these characters.
Sadly that is just not me.
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