Thank you to Knopf Canada/Random House Canada for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book to review.
I will say with rather fair certainty this book will end up being one of the most – if not THE MOST – memorable books of this whole year. I didn’t know what to expect from it exactly, not even after reading the summary and already being extremely curios about what’s inside. I was even scared of being disappointed. That, gladly, didn’t happen; it was much the opposite.
“Abroad” luckily doesn’t lie in its summary. Tabitha (Taz) Deacon arrives in Grifonia, Italy with the hopes of being someone different, someone besides who she was back in her small town in Ireland, to break through and join the crowd and meet Italian boys. All of this happens but in a way that I found rather pleasant.
Events unfold at the perfect pace. We get to know our main heroine and from the beginning of the book Crouch uses a strategy which I think made this book a winner: Tabitha is talking about herself but from a time period that occurs after the final event of the storyline. It’s not really a foreshadowing per say, and doesn’t take up that much of the book, but appears at key moments such as in the beginning when she talks about the contents of her own suitcase or about her friend Claire. The contrast between the in-the-moment-Taz and her “current” state when she’s telling the story itself gave the book an interesting flavour that definitely sets it apart from the rest.
The writing isn’t Shakespeare, I’ll say this now. And to anyone who’s expecting some witty, literary-prize-worthy prose I warn to drop that expectation. Some of the previous reviewers even addressed this before and said it’s too simple, they found, and doesn’t depict the accuracy/wit of a young adult in their twenties. The writing style is just what this book needed. The writing is simple, yes, (and most likely because this was the uncorrected proof there were several grammatical/typing errors I found), but it eases you into Taz’s mind. The book is a new adult, I would think, based on the context of the book and some of the details/themes touched upon inside, although the main scope of the idea can easily touch different age groups. The dialogue isn’t something filled with philosophical discussion or even that much logical pondering. But that’s how life is, and how teens and even young adults are, and I’m so glad that this book captured that idea and didn’t pretend to be something witty and overly-intelligent to the point of becoming absurd.
The one downfall I did notice was the fact that the book did partially suffer from a slightly misguided summary (at least in my opinion). I wouldn’t say that Claire and Taz’s love over the same boy is really that big of a plot twist/turning point in the story, although it definitely altered the dynamic into making the story end up at the point it eventually did. The whole story was much on the same level when it comes to unexpectedness. There were hardly any unforeseen turns and the mystery behind the whole story and several details aren’t that mindboggling once they’re revealed over the course of the novel, but it’s the right amount of suspense and intrigue to have gripped my attention. The stories of the dead women also seemed bizarre at first, especially how sparsely they appeared throughout the story, but all questions were left answered in the end so it was a complete cycle.
The book is quite a mini-whirlwind of emotion. The characters each had their bright moments and all of them annoyed me on several occasions, and I felt completely alright with that, because this book got across its message of life and fitting in and adulthood. I was moved and haunted by the entire scenario and the characters. I didn’t really think about the Amanda Knox case while reading this and that’s probably not necessary as the book does a fantastic job as being a standalone and at the same time having a universal quality to it that many readers will be able to appreciate. I was left with a melancholy yet deeply satisfied feeling once I closed this book; “Abroad” is a winner.