It is hard to write a review for a book when I have the sort of reaction to it that I had for Gil Marsh by A.C.E. Bauer. I was disappointed in it, but not through any fault with the actual writing. This is one of those cases where the author's vision for her story did not match my expectations as a reader. Keeping this in mind I'm going to try and split this into two parts.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Good looking, athletic, and smart, Gill 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 succombs 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.
For Readers Unfamiliar With The Epic of Gilgamesh
This is a story about a boy who is grieving for his friend and who goes on a quest to say good bye properly. It is fast paced and there are some intense scenes. Gil is a sympathetic character who is searching for answers to hard life questions and trying to get over the death of his friend. You may question why Gil does some of the things he does and not fully understand why this friendship is such an important one, but Gil is an easy character to like and you will want to see him succeed. There is one place near the end where there is a flirting with the supernatural that will probably have you scratching your head as there is no real explanation for it.
For Readers Familiar With The Epic of Gilgamesh
The book pretty much follows the Epic in form as well as plot, except I felt the details were even more sparse in this retelling than they are in the original. Bauer made a decision to remove most of the mythos from the story in the novel. I was okay with this, but was hoping that would mean a removal of the entire mythos. Except it didn't. While the gods and goddesses of Babylonian myth are absent from the story, there is a random immortal dude lurking in the mountains of northern Canada. Unlike Utnapishtim in the original, this guy has no idea how or why he is immortal and is not forthcoming with any help for Gil at all. He basically says, "This is the way I am. No explanation for it. Weird huh? Now get off my property." And that's all we get of that. One of the reasons I like the Epic so much is that one of its major themes is inevitably of death, but at the same time stresses life is precious and should be celebrated. The novel kind of sort of flirts with that concept a little at the end, but not noticeably. By removing the mythos Bauer also removed the feminine aspect of the story. The only major female character in the novel is not nice. She thwarts Gil's quest and swindles him. This too works against the themes in the original work, where the female is necessary as it is essential to life itself. Without these themes the story felt empty and lacking in meaning. It was just the story of a sad guy who went on a fruitless and uncomfortable road trip. Hence my disappointment.
This is a review of a copy received via NetGalley. Gil Marsh will be available for purchase February 28.