He liked listening to the classics (Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift).

Oof. I gotta say, John David Anderson’s Stowaway was incredibly boring. I feel bad saying this, because I know that there’s certainly some worth in this story–one focused on found families and the concepts of trust and manipulation–but I had such a hard time getting through it. And I think it’s telling that you can have fantastic ideas and intriguing plots, but if your characters aren’t interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention, you have a problem.

Stowing Away

Honestly, I’m not sure if it was the characters or if it was the pacing that really did this novel in for me. Truthfully, it’s probably a little bit of both. I simply couldn’t bring myself to connect with the characters at all and certain parts of the story took way too long.

It’s really surprising that the characters were so difficult to feel emotions for. Most of them had very distinct personalities. But something about the way the characters were written really prevented me from building any emotional connection to them. Their emotions were never displayed in a way that allowed me to. The writing of their big emotional moments just felt so flat and dry. Leo, despite losing his father, and his brother in a way, never really displayed the emotions I would have expected from him.

And the story hurts for this.

Alternately, the book as a whole just dragged. Moments that meant absolutely nothing dragged on and on. And then bigger moments, the exponentially impactful ones felt so damn rushed. It’s as though Anderson put the emphasis on all the unimportant miscellaneous moments. And then barely spent time on anything that was meant to really hit you emotionally.

It’s Unfortunate

The sad thing is that I do think this book had potential. The themes within it were genuinely great ones. I’ve grown to really love the concept of a found family in my adult years. Those connections are important. The ideas behind trust given through manipulation and lies is definitely something worth exploring.

The only problem is that these concepts are never really deeply explored. Anderson set up this world with these brilliant themes…and then proceeded to follow a very tell, not show format to them. We got all the information regarding the trust built through lies and manipulation entirely in dialogue exposition. And it was so boring.

So, I’m just kind of left with this novel that really could have been…something, but is instead just disappointing. And I think it comes down to the execution. You can have great ideas, but if you don’t put in the effort to write them properly, your novel is going to fall flat.

I get that this is a middlegrade novel. And there are many young boys who will probably love this. But I don’t think it was written well. And I, for one, am very disappointed.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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