Review: Amanzimtoti: The Ridge - Carmen-Shea Hepburn

Amanzimtoti: The Ridge Amanzimtoti: The Ridge by Carmen-Shea Hepburn

Rating : {★★★☆☆}

I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Firstly some trigger warnings: Self harm and references to child abuse. Generally I would say this book is for mature audiences only - there is quite a lot of strong language, some violence and also casual use of alcohol and drugs.

Amanzimtoti: The Ridge is a coming-of-age novel centred around Wayne Du Preez who, at the beginning of the book, is about to embark on his final year of high school. The book goes through approximately six months of his life when a boy from his childhood reappears - a boy he with whom he shared his first kiss. This boy has returned to Toti and has brought his childhood memories and his fears with him.

I liked and enjoyed this book and thought it was a very brave and promising debut novel. I truly look forward to reading more from Carmen-Shea Hepburn

As an expat living in Southern Africa next door to South Africa where this book is set, I appreciated the 'local' references and slang but I did find that there was a lot of it interspersed throughout the narrative. For an aspiring International book, I would have preferred to have seen the slang more limited to the dialogue.

The actual plot was good and the characterisation was fantastic. I felt a strong connection to Wayne and to his two best friends, Travis and Jessica. I did feel that Wayne's first kiss and the incident that most of this book is actually centred around happened when he was extremely young (a sexual experience at age 9?) and as thus I found it a little hard to wrap my head around. However beyond this, the characters are complex and believable and one cannot help but be drawn into their world.

While the writing itself was good and easy to read and immerse myself into I did find the detail at times to be too tedious. For example at a braai they were having we are divulged with the fact that Jessica served Wayne up with steak, boerewors and chicken. None of this was actually important except maybe for the fact that Jessica actually got the food.

There was also some confusion for me about the time period in which this novel takes place. It is definitely a contemporary setting with all the main characters having cell phones (before they have graduated from high school) so this to me puts the books at least post 2000, however there was also mention of a Hi-Fi at a party with tapes and cds scattered around it. By the late 90s and 2000s it was definitely all cds, even more so for the young adult generations like those we are reading about, and 2001 saw the launch of the iPod which revolutionised the way we listen to music on a global scale. A small and forgivable incongruity, but nevertheless one that stood out for me while reading.

For most of the reasons above I felt like the story only really hits it's stride from about 40% into the book, where most of the excess padding is removed and every chapter actually becomes significant, which is why I can only rate this one at 3 stars. The rest of the book however was quite gripping and as I said, I truly look forward to reading more from this author.

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