So What’s Next! (So What! Stories #2) by G.J. Griffiths – 3 stars
Molly Pearson is a young Biology teacher with two passions in her life: a strong commitment to protecting wildlife; and a desire to encourage the children in her classes to feel the same enthusiasm for Nature.
When her class decide they would like to restore the school’s neglected and vandalised nature corner her hopes are raised and challenged at the same time. The hurdles that she meets along the way will include bullied and bullying pupils, as well as the expected ones of finance and willing manpower.
But leaping those fences does not prepare the ambitious Molly for a dramatic fire and the confusion of a new passion in her life, in the form of Oliver Shrimpton. Will he become that significant someone, or is he just another obstacle for her to overcome?
This story is difficult to categorize. It doesn’t really have a plot in the usual sense, and the main character is more the school than it is any one person. In addition, it covers a great deal of time, about two years. There is a huge amount of infodumping through the book. Each character that gets focused on has his or her background explained.
Various small plots come and go, including a schoolboy crush, bullying and juvenile delinquency, depression, and a heart health issue. They manage to intertwine in some places, but aren’t all complementary and seamless. The conflicts they create don’t have satisfying resolutions, and each one is suborned to the overall message of nature conservation to the point that important parts are glossed over.
Perspective in the narrative shifts unexpectedly, and I got confused about whose head I was inside several times. In several cases, the opportunity to see things from a particular character’s point of view felt squandered. The depression section especially seemed like it was wasted. The characters didn’t seem to have been chosen to show how they think and feel, but rather to display what they experience. This isn’t always true, but it happens a lot.
As a minor complaint, the author chose to bleep out all the ‘vulgar’ words with ellipses, resulting in words like ‘b…r’ (It’s written in British English). The self-censoring is jarring and confusing, as I had to pause at some of them to figure out what word the author declined to show. It seems amateurish to do that, and I would have preferred to see either the proper word or a watered-down word if this is intended for young people.
All that said, the book is overall pleasant. It has a positive message about ecological conservationism, and explains the ideas from the point of view of science and wonder. Expect a rambling tale that wishes to express love for nature and the natural world.
I recommend this for people who want a slice of real life story without hard edges.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.