'The Book of Sam' by Rob Shapiro is a "hell-bound fantasy starring demons, damsels, and an unlikely hero."
If you're anything like me, that simple tagline is more than enough to make you want to read the book. I jumped at the chance for a copy, but sadly.. it was a disappointment.
After finishing the book, as per usual.. I began to do a little research on it. Of course, I discovered it had been a Wattpad story. Had I known that, I would have probably looked long and hard at the decision to read it, but I try not to let too much in the way of preconceived beliefs get in my way. There certainly are exceptions to my personal rule of Wattpad, however.. about seventy percent of the books with Wattpad origins I've read, have been.. let's just say, not to my liking.
In this story, we follow sixteen-year-old Sam.. a kid who suffers abuse from most of his peers and suffers under the weight of his father, a man who sees greatness in Sam's siblings and nothing in him. Sam pretty much has one friend, a girl he crushes on named Harper.. that at some point in his miserable childhood just designated herself his faithful protector.
As a kid who seems to do everything wrong, Sam gets an idea from his Uncle to sweep Harper off her feet and confess his feelings for her. A toxic mixture of curiosity, fear, and the need to please lead to the kidnapping of the girl he loves, as she's dragged into Hell. Literally. But unwilling to let her go, he decides to go after her.
I know.. I know what you're thinking. It sounds like an exciting adventure fraught with danger, the opportunity for wildly creative hellscapes, fantastical elements of magic and demon lore, all in search of his best friend.
Certainly there is danger.. there are a couple of interesting world-building moments, though mostly even in the cases they're explained rather extensively, they're still not explained all that well. They read instead, like half-formed visual ideas and as with most of the book, I felt the author simply lacked the imagination and language to truly breathe life into them.
The dialogue is mostly terrible, which in hindsight.. knowing that the author is a TV writer that has dabbled in film, I'm unsurprised. Long have I lamented the weak dialogue work in these areas. There are barely more than a handful of popular TV and film writers who I feel understand how we interact well enough to convey it in dialogue, a few more probably who are lesser known, but this is an area that strong authors have always done well with. It's almost like novelists.. good novelists.. just have an extra muscle somewhere everyone else is missing.
Though Sam's backstory is in theory, meant to be sad.. and some of the characters we meet along the way even have what should be tragic backstories, the author presented them in a way that meant little to me. He failed to make me care even a little if any of the main characters would succeed in their goals.
Yet, Shapiro isn't unable to convey those feelings entirely. He just fails to apply them to those who should matter most in the story. I cared very much about how things would turn out for a little incubus named Thorlton and even a little for a bigger one named Moscow.
I'm a big fan of stories told in this kind of world, so there was a lot of potential for me to love this book. The execution just wasn't there. I feel like if the author could shake the mindset of images he can show us on screen and learn to flex some muscle with words, he could maybe reach another level with his writing.. but that's purely conjecture on my part. Maybe this is all he's got.
From a technical standpoint, it's fine.. though, I've never seen so many 'and' sentences back to back in a book. That felt odd and a lot like the way the kids wrote in my grade school, but whatever. It's not a book filled with glaring errors in novel writing or anything. It just falls very flat for me. Maybe you'll be more forgiving.