So Shelly

( 9 )

Overview

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident.

After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least...

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So Shelly

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Overview

Until now, high school junior, John Keats, has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron. That is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident.

After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Roth's imagining of poets Keats, Byron, and Shelly (a blending of Percy and Mary) in the present day centers almost exclusively on Byron, known as Gordon, despite being narrated by Keats. Following Shelly's apparent suicide, Gordon and Keats steal her ashes and, fleeing Shelly's sexually abusive father, they take a boat out on Lake Erie to fulfill her last wishes. Most of the story consists of Keats relaying Gordon's past adventures, including being sexually abused by his nanny, publishing a YA vampire book, seducing many women—including his cousin and possibly his half-sister—and briefly joining a Greek terrorist squad. Shelly is Gordon's neighbor and childhood best friend, but his feelings for her have remained platonic while she has fallen in love with him; Keats is Shelly's trusted friend, though there are only glimpses of that friendship. Despite the intriguing premise, excessive back-story and rehashing of Gordon's sexual conquests (however accurately they might resemble Lord Byron's) can grow tiring. But though readers may struggle to see past Gordon's unlikable personality, Shelly's ultimate wishes for Gordon and Keats provide satisfying closure. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Death torments rising high school senior John Keats, who cites facts regarding diseases and accidents associated with mortality, including those relevant to his parents' demises and his older brother's tuberculosis. Narrator Keats is fixated on two classmates, George Gordon Byron and Michelle "Shelly" Shelley, with whom he interacts on their school's literary magazine staff. Gordon and Shelly are reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age characters, living privileged, entitled, careless lifestyles in their affluent Lake Erie community. Keats runs away with Gordon after they grab the urn holding Shelly's ashes from her memorial service. As the pair evades capture, Keats provides characters' histories, recalling information Shelly had confided in him. An aspiring writer, Keats is enthralled with Gordon's flamboyant escapades and best-selling book achievements. Nothing frightens hedonistic Gordon, who revels in bedding females (even incestuously) by flaunting his exquisite physique and arrogantly discarding conquests, ignoring damage he provokes. Shelly is obsessed with causes such as Native American rights, exposing her vulnerabilities while intensely voicing opinions and protesting injustices. She loves the self-absorbed Gordon and is wounded by his rejection. Keats comprehends heartbreaking betrayals which are the catalysts for Shelly's downfall. Readers will be swept along with the fast-paced plot as Gordon's outrageousness builds tension and truths about Shelly's suicide are divulged. Imagery effectively conveys characters' unsettled, disrupted natures, as well as the frequently nocturnal or remote settings where their resilience is tested. The author's note outlines biographical details regarding Romantic poets he appropriated to shape this novel and provides recommended bibliographical resources. Read with Gregory Galloway's As Simple as Snow (2005) and John Green's Looking for Alaska (2005) and Paper Towns (2008). Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
VOYA - Amanda McFadden
Until now, high school junior John Keats has only tiptoed near the edges of the vortex that is schoolmate, and literary prodigy, Gordon Byron—that is, until their mutual friend, Shelly, drowns in a sailing accident. After stealing Shelly's ashes from her wake at Trinity Catholic High School, the boys set a course for the small Lake Erie island where Shelly's body had washed ashore and to where she wished to be returned. It would be one last "so Shelly" romantic quest. At least that's what they think. As they navigate around the obstacles and resist temptations during their odyssey, Keats and Gordon glue together the shattered pieces of Shelly's and their own pasts while attempting to make sense of her tragic and premature end. So Shelly is told by Keats, the confidante of both Gordon and Shelly, which makes for an absorbing plot. This reader is unsure whether knowing about the real-life poets is a hindrance or a help. The smooth, playful writing style skillfully intertwines the stories of the protagonists. Roth has penned a contemporary story of three teenagers' coming-of-age that takes the reader on a turbulent journey. The story contains a spattering of social issues—abortion, suicide, and sexual abuse—which are best suited to an older reader. The visually beautiful cover immediately catches attention. This novel may have limited readership but is one that teenage girls will thoroughly enjoy. Reviewer: Amanda McFadden
Kirkus Reviews

Fatalistic teen narrator John Keats opens this tale with his observation that most of us don't matter. Emotionally and financially distanced from his classmates at Trinity High, poor, doomed Keats delivers morbid statistics, occasional sermons about society's evils and the story of George Gordon Byron and Michelle "Shelly" Shelley. He begins with a funeral and ends with a burial, relating Gordon and Shelly's love/hate relationship between the two events. Like their namesakes (the Romantics Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, conflated to create Shelly, Lord Byron and John Keats), all three teenagers write, but their personal drama dwarfs their literary output. They are riveting but not entirely sympathetic characters, particularly Gordon, whom Keats portrays as a callous genius and womanizer. Roth supplements the namesakes' original scandals with abortion, alcohol, incest, masturbation and swearing. As anguished writers and tortured teens are universal, the narrative offers a powerful dose of modern teen cynicism and yearning; a subplot involving freedom fighters unnecessarily complicates an already full story. Lurid yet literary. (afterword, bibliography)(Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385739597
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/14/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 967,859
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

TY ROTH teaches literature and composition at both the high school and university level. He has studied the Romantic poets and enjoys teaching his students about them. He holds a Sociology degree from Xavier University and a Masters of English Literature from the University of Toledo. He lives with his family in Sandusky, Ohio, along the shores of his much-loved Lake Erie.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1

It was the last day of school and the first day of summer. One of those limbo days, when you're not quite sure if you're ending or beginning. Either way, my junior year was over, and I hoped I'd never see another one like it. However, there was one more thing Gordon and I had to do before I could put the year fully to rest.

The gym was hotter than hell, but Gordon leaned back, as cool as ever, in one of the ungodly uncomfortable metal folding chairs that were arranged in a semicircle around a makeshift altar on which rested a black marble urn containing the ashes of our mutual best friend, Shelly. Gordon's plan was to steal the urn, drive to Shelly's, break into the pool shed where she'd kept her beloved boom box, shoot over to the island in one of Gordon's powerboats, and then spread her ashes while playing her favorite song from a disc she had bequeathed to me prior to her death. Not much in the way of funeral tributes, but all so Shelly.

According to Gordon, it was what she wanted, which, I know, leads to the question: Why would a healthy eighteen-year-old have thought to share her final wish at all, unless, of course, she knew her death was imminent? And if Gordon knew her demise was coming, why didn't he tell me? It seems obvious now; most things do in retrospect. But since Gordon and Shelly had been friends and neighbors for their entire lives, I figured her final wish had been the product of whimsical childhood speculation, protected by a secretly sworn pact. Shelly was a dreamer like that, full of "What if?'s" and "If only's."

Even if I had thought to ask the right questions at the appropriate times, the answers would have come too late to change the outcome. Anyway, even knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have changed a thing.

In theory, Gordon's plan was simple. In execution, it was not.

Trinity's gymnasium was packed for the early-evening wake with awkward teenage mourners--awkward, of course, because, while most present had flushed a goldfish or two or lost the occasional grandparent, few had attended a wake for someone their own age. Shelly's death was doubly aberrant, considering how extraordinarily alive she had always been--so alive that even the memory of her felt more vibrant than the breathing bodies that sat all around me. I, however, felt right at home. In just the past two years, I'd attended funerals for both of my parents, and Tom was, as I've said, not far behind.

Due to Shelly's fall-semester expulsion from Trinity, the school's administrators had hesitated to grant her father's request for the use of the gymnasium, which was the only venue large enough in all of Ogontz, Ohio, to accommodate the large outpouring of young mourners. I've learned that although there is a seemingly endless list of indiscretions that one may perform without being excommunicated from Trinity--including exposing yourself to a junior varsity cheerleader, screwing your English teacher, and stealing and consuming communion wine from the school chapel, all of which Gordon committed with relative impunity--writing a measly five-hundred-word essay on the necessity of atheism that, against all odds, gets published in the "My Turn" section of Newsweek is not on it. It was only Mr. Shelley's record of consistent and generous donations that convinced the administration to allow the wake to take place on school grounds.

But his donation, of an amount that only he, God, and Monsignor Moore (the pastor at All Saints Catholic Church) knew, was not an act of selfless grief. The public wake at Trinity was a transparent ploy by Shelly's father to keep her friends (think Gordon) away from the official funeral services. A members-of-the-family-only gathering was planned for the next evening at their home, with a funeral mass at All Saints scheduled for the morning after.

Like Gordon's, Shelly's family lived on a peninsular strip of beach-lined property that juts into Lake Erie, separating the lake from the Ogontz Bay. Locals call that strip the Strand. Seasonal residents from nearby Cleveland and Toledo, and from as far away as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Detroit, populate the majority of the sprawling lakeside mansions during the summer, but a handful of Ogontz's gentry call Acedia, a gated community on the Strand, home. The ultra-exclusive subdivision was intended to be named for Arcadia, the idyllic rural region of southern Greece, but when the wrought iron gate with the subdivision's name artistically rendered across the top arrived misspelled, no one bothered to have it corrected or to look up the meaning of "acedia," which is "spiritual or mental sloth."

Most of the "mourners" had hardly known Shelly, but it's hard to resist any chance for drama or dressing up when you're a teenager in Ogontz. And drama there was.

Shelly's disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body, washed ashore on a small Lake Erie island, had earned her the sort of attention that nothing in her lifetime ever had. Several national cable networks had sent reporters and camera crews, intrigued by what they called Shelly's "socialite" family and her connection to Gordon, but the reporters immediately lost interest when foul play was eliminated and her death was ruled an accidental drowning. (Each year, fewer than 3 percent of all deaths of teenagers between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are caused by accidental drowning.) The cameras immediately moved on to their next fatality, this one having been bled dry. (A Class IV hemorrhage, which involves the loss of more than 40 percent of a person's blood, often results in one's bleeding to death.)

Despite the whirring of my mind and the turning of my stomach, I sat relatively still and looked around me. Even with the ceiling exhaust fan humming, the humidity inside the gymnasium refused to vacate the premises, as if its stultifying presence were necessary for the somber occasion and it felt obligated to fulfill its solemn duty.
 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good

    This book would make one heck of a life time movie. It was written beautifully. The characters were well describe and the plot... well the plot is not only graphic but destructive. It was a type of plot that pulls you in drowning you in the characters life and sorrows. I will do my best to write this review without revealing any spoilers. Bare with me, cause this is the first time I found myself loss for words.


    I enjoyed this book even though for me was hard to read. I found myself shaking my head a lot wondering why on earth were they doing what they were doing. Shelly. Poor Shelly. I love her character. Shelly is a girl who puts up with anything. Her emotions show clearly in her actions. Shelly did what she had to do to keep Gordon in her life. Either he was at a distance or next to her. They had what I call a very destructive relationship. One they were tied down to and could not let go.


    Gordon, was a well written beautifully describe character. I can understand the way that he is because of what he went through, but I can't help but dislike him for what he did. He is selfish and will never learn.


    John is the third wheel caught in the middle between all this drama. I like how he didn't take sides and saw everything for what it is. Now, how this guy ever learn love from watching this relationship is beyond me. I think, he learned more about love from seeing its opportunity that is lost. Love that was never given a chance because of selfish people not letting go and seeing the good that was always in front of them.


    This book overall is great. I loved reading it. It does have some very graphic things in it. There was drugs, sex, incest, suicide, and every kind of hurt you ever felt. Good book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    Great book-must check it out!!

    I loved this book! I especially appreciated the cleverness with which the lives and characters of romantic poets Shelly, Byron, and Keats were woven into this contemporary and relevant story. I related emotionally with each character on multiple levels, as well as their stories. What I loved most about this book are the words with which the author chooses to tell his tale. I paused on several occasions to savor the descriptions throughout this novel.So Shelly can be enjoyed at different levels; it is intelligent and moving. Great for book groups and mature young adults. Ty Roth is to YA literature what Eminem is to Rap.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    Highly Recommended! Pre-Order This Now! I read an advanced copy.

    I am one of the lucky few that was able to receive an advanced reader's copy of the book. It's available to the public February 8, 2011. Ty is my friend, and I am incredibly proud of his two-book publishing deal with Random House. Friendship aside, this is indeed one of the best books I read of 2010. While placed in the Young Adult genre, So Shelly is for mature readers, and like its author, So Shelly doesn't hold back any punches; the work addresses, and without apology, very real and dark issues facing today's teenagers. So looking forward to seeing So Shelly hit the bestseller's list. Here is an early I told you so.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Characters Missing The Ability To Draw Me In

    So Shelly jumps back and forth between the past and present, is told by Keats, and is mainly about Gordon and his exploits. While the three main characters are based off of the romantic poets, many of the smaller characters are based off of their family members and acquaintances. This book combined many different themes (sexuality, racism, suicide) that should have elicited a reaction of some sort from me, but they all felt very dry.

    While the characters were all well developed, they were all missing that extra something that comes from an author making the character their own. I think this was because too much of the story relied on factual people and relationships, so there wasn’t enough room for anything to be added to care about. Their characters were as if they were pulled out a history textbook, no emotion added. The story itself was interesting when it showed how people who are so different can get along and why they do the things they do.

    Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Great book

    This is a great book about two guys who have one thing in common their friend shelly who commited suicide. As they go on a path finding out more about shelly and each other. I loved this book from page one.

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  • Posted November 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    If you like the Romantic Poets, give this one a try

    I¿d have to say, before you actually dive into this book and enjoy it, to really *fully* enjoy this book to the maximum, it¿s best if you familiarize yourselves with the Romantic Poets. Here I¿m talking about the real famous ones: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats. Make Shelley a female and then you get the main cast of So Shelly. It¿s also best if you also take a quick read through of Lord Byron¿s life just for the extra background information. I absolutely loved this book. I loved the Romantic Poets and their transformation into three high school students in a contemporary setting was just amazing and very well done. At first I was skeptical because I haven¿t seen this done before and thought this might be a flop. But it wasn¿t. It was extremely well done and the portrayals of Lord Byron,and John Keats were great and I¿d say, probably hit the bulls eye when it comes to accuracy (well, close enough). Although I can¿t say the same for Shelley (since he became a she for this story). Still all three characters were really good and fun to read. Byron really was the main star of this book. He was dashing, exciting to read, had a rather peculiar and rather dysfunctional life but it didn¿t matter. He still oozed charm, and you couldn¿t help but like him even though you knew he was a selfish self centered jerk that really was just out for himself. The things he¿s done in the book might make you either shake your head, widen your eyes at his audacity, or just make you say: ¿Whatta guy¿. Yet there was also Keats, who was central to this story as well and the complete opposite of Byron. They become the odd couple yet manage to have an odd but interesting friendship. Byron takes the reins, and Keats just follows but it¿s deeper than that as the story progresses. I liked how this developed, in fact, I really liked all character development in this book. The characters are very real and three dimensional - although Shelly not so much I wonder if it¿s because she was made a girl in this book so she had to act differently? her development was there as well but I didn¿t think it was as great a magnitude as the other two. The plot was good, albeit slow. However, I think with this book, although there is a mystery behind it, the main focus was on the main characters and their relationships and dynamics. The plot was really secondary here. That being said, I don¿t think the book is really for everyone. (Plus, there¿s some content matter in there not really meant for younger teens, this is for the older teen bracket). Would I recommend this? yes and no. Yes, because I thought it was a good read however I myself love the poets mentioned. So perhaps this book would be best for those familiar with the three. Those new to this should give it a try anyway, but background information will help.

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    Posted February 16, 2011

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    Posted March 12, 2011

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    Posted February 7, 2011

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    Posted June 25, 2011

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