Official Review: Red - Bastard Child by David Valley

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Dael Reader
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Official Review: Red - Bastard Child by David Valley

Post by Dael Reader » 09 Sep 2018, 15:51

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Red - Bastard Child" by David Valley.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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Red—Bastard Child by David J. Valley is the story of a boy born into a poor, single-parent family at the brink of the Great Depression. Red-headed Anthony Baca—known to all as Red—is an unplanned, illegitimate child who grows up with an abusive mother and two equally abusive brown-haired brothers. The family’s poverty makes life even more of a challenge for a boy who is constantly reminded he was and is unwanted. With the help of a few friends, Red rises above his circumstances, then sets out on a roller-coaster journey through life, with unexpected twists and turns and a stunning ending.

This is a boy’s adventure story that covers the span of a lifetime. As I read the first few chapters, I was reminded of two other great boy adventurers—Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. But while the tales of those boys covered a single pivotal time in each of their lives, this book gives us a grander show of Red’s life from childhood to adulthood. Every few chapters tell us about a new adventure—or misadventure. It’s the kind of story that might have once been told as a serial in a boys’ magazine, with each issue telling another tale.

The thing I liked best about the story was Red himself. He is an immediately likable character, despite a few obvious faults. He doesn’t always do the right thing, but he wants to and tries to. Despite the abuse of his childhood, he somehow finds the confidence and determination to press forward in search of a better, happier life. I found myself rooting for him at every stage and eagerly turning each page to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed the fact that Red’s story had several unpredictable moments. He goes to camp, meets his father, and goes to college. But each of these somewhat normal events includes a twist you wouldn’t expect.

As it turned out, the events of Red’s life are the main focus of the book. Unlike the famous Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer stories, there are no underlying social or political themes here. There are no deep messages, morals, or commentaries on life presented between the lines. What you read is what you get. For a younger reader, this might be sufficient. As an adult reader, I hoped for and wanted more from the book. I wanted a story that took me deeper into the life and times of the characters, not one that just skims the surface.

From a mature reader’s perspective, there is also a woeful lack of characterization in this book. We never learn very much about the inner workings of any of the characters, including Red. We read about their actions, but we aren’t given the privilege of learning their deeper thoughts and motives. This was something I struggled with as I read. I wanted to know what would happen to Red, but I also wanted to know more about how each adventure affected him at the core of his being. I wanted to know what was happening in the minds and souls of the characters, not just their actions.

Unfortunately, there were also many mechanical errors throughout the book, primarily involving punctuation. These errors are a distraction from the easy enjoyment that should come from reading a great adventure.

I hemmed and hawed a little before making the decision to give this book a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. Like Red, the story had a lot of potential, but it was never fully realized. There were too many mechanical errors throughout the book to merit a perfect score. And for me, the lack of characterization and meaningful subplots pulled another star out of the ranking. With two or three rounds of professional editing, this could be a good read for middle-school students looking for a straight-forward adventure story. But it probably won’t be a very satisfying read for more mature readers.

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Red - Bastard Child
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Post by AliceofX » 11 Sep 2018, 01:08

Dael Reader wrote: ↑
09 Sep 2018, 15:51
Unlike the famous Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer stories, there are no underlying social or political themes here. There are no deep messages, morals, or commentaries on life presented between the lines.
It seems to me like you're criticizing the book for what it's not rather than for what it is. Things like that never seemed fair to me. You kind of set this whole thing up by first comparing it to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn but then complaining that it's nothing like those stories. As someone who hasn't read Red - Bastard Child I have no idea if it tried to be anything like those books and whether your point has any merit.

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 11 Sep 2018, 03:25

I enjoyed reading this well-written review. I note it describes some colourful adventures but it's a shame the characters' inner worlds were a closed book to the reader. I think even younger readers can appreciate a good character.

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Post by Bianka Walter » 11 Sep 2018, 08:05

It's frustrating when you want to know more about the feelings of a character and get only the actions. Especially when you become invested in them. This is great criticism for the author though, and I hope he takes your advice to heart.
Great review!
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Post by kandscreeley » 11 Sep 2018, 08:55

It sounds like this one falls just a bit short. I think I would be frustrated without some kind of deeper purpose to the book, especially with the lack of characterization. I appreciate you introducing this one to us, but I think I'm going to skip it.
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Post by Georgia Lyonhyde » 11 Sep 2018, 11:44

Thanks for the great review. It reads like you have put a lot of thought into how best to sell the book without putting people off by some of the major flaws it has.

In all honesty, I'm not a fan of the Great Depression era. Steinbeck was the nail in the coffin. I think personally, I am not interested enough to read this book myself, but it's the kind of book I would happily listen to a friend harp on about if they were reading it over time. You have sold Red and I am invested in him, but the lack of depth with the other characters would frustrate me.
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Post by Emi_Review » 11 Sep 2018, 12:28

I dislike a lack of characterisation in books, that's what helps me care about a character. The premise of this book sounds interesting but I think it missed an opportunity for any deeper meanings or characterisation. Thank you for the review.

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Post by Dael Reader » 12 Sep 2018, 16:49

AliceofX wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 01:08
Dael Reader wrote: ↑
09 Sep 2018, 15:51
Unlike the famous Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer stories, there are no underlying social or political themes here. There are no deep messages, morals, or commentaries on life presented between the lines.
It seems to me like you're criticizing the book for what it's not rather than for what it is. Things like that never seemed fair to me. You kind of set this whole thing up by first comparing it to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn but then complaining that it's nothing like those stories. As someone who hasn't read Red - Bastard Child I have no idea if it tried to be anything like those books and whether your point has any merit.
Dael Reader wrote:I see your point. I think the issue for me was that the beginning of the book showed the promise of a Twain-like adventure--with a boy spending time in the woods, doing typical, boy-like things as he sought refuge from the rest of the world. And in the early chapters, Red's friend Lou alludes to the stories of Finn and Sawyer, which added to my expectation that this would be a similar adventure story. But as the story progressed, I was disappointed by the lack of subplots and characterization, the lack of a deeper purpose for the story. For very young readers, a simple telling of Red's actions might be enough. But this in not a children's book. Because of the nature of some of the adventures--including a murder, a custody battle, and a violent abduction--I would say the best age group would be at least 12 or older. And I suspect that even most middle-school and high-school aged readers would prefer a story with a little more depth. So yes, I see your point-- I am criticizing the book for what it isn't. But that's because I thought it had so much potential to be more.

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Post by teacherjh » 13 Sep 2018, 10:09

I'm always disappointed when a story lacks depth as well. It sounds like an intense plot though. Great review.

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:29

ButterscotchCherrie wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 03:25
I enjoyed reading this well-written review. I note it describes some colourful adventures but it's a shame the characters' inner worlds were a closed book to the reader. I think even younger readers can appreciate a good character.
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for the comment. I also think young readers are looking for more then just the story on the surface. This one has potential, but readers will have to fill in the obvious blanks themselves.

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:31

Bianka Walter wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 08:05
It's frustrating when you want to know more about the feelings of a character and get only the actions. Especially when you become invested in them. This is great criticism for the author though, and I hope he takes your advice to heart.
Great review!
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for your comment. I totally agree. I think Red's the kind of guy that would probably had a few deep thoughts. We just didn't get to share them. And I would love to see this one rewritten!

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:33

kandscreeley wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 08:55
It sounds like this one falls just a bit short. I think I would be frustrated without some kind of deeper purpose to the book, especially with the lack of characterization. I appreciate you introducing this one to us, but I think I'm going to skip it.
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for your comment. I would not say this one for the must-read list. And it is too bad, because Red could be a great guy to get to know better. We just didn't get the chance.

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:39

Georgia Lyonhyde wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 11:44
Thanks for the great review. It reads like you have put a lot of thought into how best to sell the book without putting people off by some of the major flaws it has.

In all honesty, I'm not a fan of the Great Depression era. Steinbeck was the nail in the coffin. I think personally, I am not interested enough to read this book myself, but it's the kind of book I would happily listen to a friend harp on about if they were reading it over time. You have sold Red and I am invested in him, but the lack of depth with the other characters would frustrate me.
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for your comment. This was a hard one to rate because I thought Red was such a likable kind of guy, but it was very frustrating to be left in the dark about the deep thoughts for all the characters. And one of the problems I had with the book was that it didn't make any particular comments or allusions to the socioeconomic or political climate of the Depression, other then letting us know that's when the book takes place. I think it would have been better to have something added along those lines. "Steinbeck was the nail in the coffin." I chuckled on that one. I actually like East of Eden, but Grapes of Wrath?? I never figured out why that one seems to be the bigger classic.

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:40

Emi_Review wrote: ↑
11 Sep 2018, 12:28
I dislike a lack of characterisation in books, that's what helps me care about a character. The premise of this book sounds interesting but I think it missed an opportunity for any deeper meanings or characterisation. Thank you for the review.
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for your comment. Sadly, This one definitely fell short.

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Post by Dael Reader » 13 Sep 2018, 15:41

teacherjh wrote: ↑
13 Sep 2018, 10:09
I'm always disappointed when a story lacks depth as well. It sounds like an intense plot though. Great review.
Dael Reader wrote:Thanks for the comment. It was a bit of a disappointment. Really, I wish the author would give this one another draft or two and add more details about the time period, as well as much more information about the characters' thoughts, dreams, goals, and motives.

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