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{February 26, 2012}   {ARC Review} Gil Marsh by A.C.E. Bauer

From Goodreads: Good looking, athletic, and smart, Gil Marsh is the most popular kid at Uruk High School, even though he is only a junior. When Enko, a new kid from Montreal, shows up, Gil is wary. Yet Enko is easy going and matches Gil’s athletic prowess without being a threat. Soon, the two become inseparable friends, practicing, studying, and double-dating.

Then suddenly, to everyone’s shock, Enko succumbs to an aggressive cancer.

When Enko’s parents take his body and return to Canada, Gil is unable to even say good bye. He is inconsolable. Determined to find Enko’s grave, Gil sneaks away and heads north.

Closely based on the ancient story of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian King from 3000 BC, A. C. E. Bauer has carefully woven the classic elements of myth to follow Gil’s quest and explore the grief and growth of a young man.

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I am sorry to say that, while I had high hopes for this novel, I actually struggled with it for a few different reasons.  First, I found it to have a somewhat forced pacing and it just didn’t grab me.  Events seemed to happen in a very quick succession without giving the reader much time to digest the information.  For instance, one moment Gil and Enko hate each other, and the next moment they’re best friends, but I personally never felt like the story gave rise to these events.  They just seemed to appear on the page without much explanation for the reader.  I’m a reader that enjoys a story that takes place over time not only in the story, but also on the pages as well, and I didn’t find that within Gil Marsh.  Time does pass in the novel, a lot of time, but it tends to happen all on the same page, and I tend to have a bit of difficulty with that as a reader.

Second, I felt the same in terms of the characterization as I did with the pacing.  While the reader is given background knowledge, I never felt a direct connection with any of the characters.  Gil and Enko become best friends, but there isn’t anything to really solidify that for the reader; I never felt like they were fleshed out to any point that I could relate to them.  I also was confused by their relationship as, aside from becoming best friends seemingly overnight, the descriptions of their interrelations tend to give off a feel for a romantic relationship and not just a deep friendship.  Perhaps it was just my perception of the story as I read, but there were many different circumstances within the novel that made me question Gil and Enko’s actual relationship, such as Gil’s obsessive description of Enko being a beautiful boy, them holding each other, etc.  I don’t know if this is what Bauer was planning when she wrote the novel, and as I haven’t read the original story of “Gilgamesh,”  I can’t say if they’re supposed to be great friends or lovers, but I do know that these descriptions left me a bit confused.

Third, I found the journey into Canada to be a little bit strange.  Once Enko dies, Gil is devastated, which is understandable, but his journey into Canada with barely any money and no sure destination struck me as odd.  The fact that the journey seems to jump from one bad situation to the next also left me feeling somewhat depressed—I was hoping for a story that shows the healing process, but didn’t really find it as I read.

In all honesty, I found that this story isn’t really my style, mainly because of the lack of pacing and characterization.  I, personally, just wasn’t drawn into it; it was okay, but not for me.  Two stars. 

Random House Children’s Book has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 28, 2012.

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