Rubicon – J.M. Johnson

RubiconFrom Goodreads.com: Brigid James has returned from summer vacation hoping her classmates won’t ask about the bandanna she now wears on her wrist. When she meets Tunnel-the handsome new guy who literally makes her lose her senses – Brigid’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Tunnel claims he is able to see ghosts and he is positive that Brigid can do the same. As Brigid discovers the underground world of ghosts and demons, she discovers that one ghost in particular has it in for her. This book is for mature young adult readers for language, teen drug use, and intense situations. Recommended for ages 16+

Published: March 2014

Why I Chose It: I received this book from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I originally entered the giveaway because I was interested in reading more ghost / paranormal stories.

The Review:

So this book starts off rather quickly, by which I mean that there’s a lot of content that should probably be dealt with in a serious manner, but instead is just kind of flung in your face. For example, in the first 30 pages we talk about:

Sex: 4 times

Drugs: 4 times

Attempted suicide: 1 time

Attempted rape: 1 time

That’s a lot to take in. In the opening scene, not only is out main character Bridge smoking pot, she and her co-worker are scribbling sexual innuendos on napkins at their place of work – an ice cream store. The amount of bad sexual puns in this book made me cringe. I might have had a perma-cringe by the end of this book.

It’s not that I’m against having drugs, sex, suicide or rape in a book, because I think they can be really well done. I just think they need to be approached in a certain way. For example, the attempted rape takes place on page 20. I felt like I barely knew who Bridge was, never mind the people who were in the room with her. Then after an awkward fight scene with her “best friend” who refused to let her report the assault Bridge just seems to forget about it. You can’t just drop an almost-rape scene on a reader and then never deal with all the issues it contains. In my opinion, if a book is going to contain a scene like this, then it needs to deal with it and not just ignore it.

I just felt like the topics weren’t dealt with in a mature manner, and this is mainly due to pacing. The book reads as very twitchy. It jumps from one scene to the next, where there’s always a bigger problem, but the narrative never stops to deal with the previous problems. The book just seems to ignore problems and move onto the next one. I really struggled with this. I felt like I didn’t have a chance to deal with what was going on before being dumped with something entirely different. But more importantly, I felt like the characters never had a chance to deal with anything either. They just seemed to forget that things happened. There was no down time, and no adjustment or dealing time, which I felt I really needed in the book.

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So, this isn’t to say that Johnson’s novel doesn’t contain some good material, because I actually think it did. Once we got into the ghost stuff, I almost enjoyed the descriptions that Johnson gives. There were some really interesting ghost characters, and I liked that some seemed really deep and complicated, and yet other ghosts were reduced to basic emotions. The way they interacted with humans was really intriguing because it involved a sharing of emotions. Plus the way Bridge (who can see ghosts plainly) can both interact and influence the ghosts was cool. There was also some other good content, like the use of crystals for protection and warding. And in the end, the way that Johnson combines the idea of Bridge’s attempted suicide with the way she interacts with ghosts was actually really good. That was the one major issue that was dealt with in the end of the book, and I appreciated it.

While I liked some of the ideas that are contained in the novel, it was still a really tough read. The book reads as short and choppy with a lot of the scenes, and the dialogue comes across as really crass at times. Plus I couldn’t get a firm grasp on the characters. I think they were supposed to be 17, but they acted like they were 13 (I had to keep reminding myself they were older – which was a little confusing, considering the amount they talk about sex). I just felt like while the ideas were good, the story itself was really underdeveloped, and I needed to get a lot more out of it than was actually there. I think this was a good introduction to ghost YA, and I do think Johnson had some good ideas, but unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with this one.

Rating: 2/5

Quotes

“I could physically feel Tunnel next to me as Mr. Eliot lectured. There was a slight pull, like gravity […] I had the feeling that if I were blindfolded in a room, I could pick Tunnel out of a crowd. As class began, I wondered if having Tunnel as a classmate was going to have a negative impact on my grade.” p. 18

Fear. This was the emotion I picked up from the little girl. I wanted to run back to the group of guys, still chatting away on the street corner. I could see the fear in the girl’s eyes. Every person who passed her on the streets seemed to pull into themselves a little bit, or huddle closer to the person they were with. This was not our fear.” p. 49

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