Review by Jessica Dall
Indie/Self-published books always seem to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, indie and self-publishing has allowed for many quirky, brilliant novels to be produced that would otherwise have problems finding traditional publishers. On the other, it has allowed for many poorly edited, unimpressive books to make it up without the sometimes justified gatekeeping traditional publishers employ. Interestingly enough, Cheryl Kerr’s See Ya finds itself somewhere in between—or honestly somehow straddling both categories).
With multiple interwoven storylines, See Ya is perhaps most simply described as the story of a woman, Manda, who, after suffering the loss of her father, begins picking through old boxes only to come to the odd realization that she didn’t really know her father at all. Joined by a stranger, Pieter, led to her door looking for his father, the pair begins to unravel stories that were lost somewhere in time.
If not entirely original for a plot, Kerr does a good job of presenting realistic characters. Small details show Manda’s very real reaction to the loss of her father, and help the reader experience everything the characters are experiencing—something good books should do. Unfortunately, as the story goes on, the detailed prose begins to undermine itself. While some might enjoy flowery language and poetic similes, in a story about a daughter trying to come to terms with a loss, and even more understand her father, it is at best distracting and at worst annoying. Throwing in odd punctuation, odd formatting and awkward sentences, as the story progresses it feels as though many, many things should have been looked at more closely in editing. Soon, the little details that make for a true world—the sound of a fan going on a hot summer day, how a father loved certain old paperbacks—morph into something overly poetic that makes the story drag. A man can’t have blue eyes, or even ice-blue, beautiful blue or light blue eyes. He has “the bluest eyes…like the clearest of skies on a cool autumn day.” While some times poetic language works, while trying to get into a story, the repeated, overdone similes make reading tedious.
This problem, if not disappears, at least abates as the book progresses, switching from first person into third as we get to see a glimpse at the father, Matthew’s, side of things. Some awkward dialogue and phrasing still follows the switch, but the sense of dragging along begins to dissipate.
And then Manda comes to the end of her father’s journal, and we’re back to first person. And then it’s another character’s point of view in third person. And then it’s back to Manda’s first person. And then Pieter’s point of view, the story flipping between multiple characters, sometimes all within the same chapter. While all the changes are clearly marked and it isn’t difficult to keep track of which story is happening where, it still leads to an odd sense of being put off balance in a story that doesn’t seem to hold enough thriller tendencies to warrant the feeling—even while trying to find out the truth with Manda’s and Pieter’s fathers.
Truly, See Ya is a difficult book to classify. Where with some books it’s possible to point to what works and what doesn’t (e.g. the writing was good/bad, but the plot was bad/good), See Ya seems to be a rollercoaster on all counts. It goes from slow, to interesting, back to slow. The prose is awkward, then richly detailed, then annoyingly poetic. At points the story is engaging, and then at points it becomes boring enough that the thing most noticed is eight of nine paragraphs beginning with “I [verb].”All in all, it isn’t an awful indie/self-published novel, but it doesn’t feel right to say that it’s a great novel either. There are just too many little problems that stick out of what could otherwise be an engaging story about loss, war, parents, children and everything life has to offer.
See Ya is available in paperback and ebook through Chanter Press (chaterpress.com)—formally Cheryl Kerr Books