I don’t normally review books on this blog, but then again, people don’t normally send me advance reader’s copies of their books to review. So here we are, and here we go.
Triple Ripple is a sweet little YA (young adult) book that’s actually three stories in one, like one of those dresses that you can wear three different ways. Well, not exactly. It’s not exactly like that. I’ll start again. Triple Ripple is actually three stories in one: (1) a fantasy tale about a girl named Glory who falls victim to an ancient curse and has to find her way to salvation with the help of her friends, (2) a modern tale about the girl who’s reading the story about Glory, and that girl’s attendant lessons in compassion and maturity, and (3) a first-person, present-tense story about the writer who’s writing both the aforementioned stories. It’s very meta. It’s also billed as a fairy tale, which is why the author’s publicist mailed it to me to review. (SPOILER: It’s not really a fairy tale.)
The main story, the story about Glory, is sweet and engaging. It’s as close to a fairy tale as you’re going to get in this book. It’s not as clever or complex as stories by Diana Wynne Jones or other luminaries in the genre, but it is sweet. The red-headed, impulsive, lovable heroine is a pleasure to know, and the supporting characters are engaging, too. The pre-industrial, monarch-centric world is believable, the magic is handled with a light touch (as are the class issues). I’d like to see what Lowry could do if she stopped faffing about with her meta-stories and really stretched out into the main narrative.
The second story is less sweet, but also engaging. The sullen young heroine has real-world problems, but not so real that it makes for an angsty, unhappy read. The dialogue is convincing, the relationships believable. Her hero’s journey has her confronting a bully at school, only to eventually develop compassion for said bully, and grow into a stronger sense of self and etc. She reads the first story to escape from her troubles. But the two stories (while sort of parallel) are only loosely intertwined. Reading one doesn’t necessarily add depth or dimension to the other. Again, it would make a strong story as a stand-alone, if the author would only reach into it more deeply.
Finally, there is an interstitial narrative that feels tremendously self indulgent to me. It’s the writer’s narrative. She mostly complains about having writer’s block, or wrestles aloud with the challenges of her main story. As a writer, I enjoyed the flourishes and descriptions of the writing life, as well as the view into another writer’s technique. But it didn’t serve a deeper purpose for the book as a whole, and while I laud her for trying something ambitious and unusual, I would have been happier had she given me more straight narrative with emotional meat to sink my teeth into.
But who knows? In her next book, she might hit her stride and pull off both a challenging narrative structure and and emotionally satisfying one.
In summation: Triple Ripple by Brigid Lowry is fairly well written, and worth a read if you’re looking for a sweet, slightly precious YA book with a mild fantasy flavor—and if you don’t mind jumping back and forth between stories, shepherded by an author who’s experimenting with the fourth wall.