Book: Young Man with Camera
Author: Emil Sher
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Basic Plot: T— is the young man with the camera. And he’s dealing with a lot of issues, including a disfiguring scar, and the school bullies. He finds an escape in photography. Then he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a homeless woman.
1) Love the stuff about photography. As a photographer myself, I enjoyed the analysis of various famous photos that the teacher shows to T—. In addition, we have the actual black and white photos scattered throughout the book show a young photographer’s attempts at viewing the world around him.
2) T—’s relationship to the various secondary characters, especially Lucy, the homeless woman. I especially liked the realism captured with her character. There’s a moment where he can’t reach her (it obvious she has some form of mental illness), and he doesn’t know what to do. I liked how that played out. Sometimes with mental illness, there isn’t anything we can do… in the moment. But T— still comes back another time. He doesn’t give up on Lucy.
3) Another relationship I enjoyed was that of Sean and Watson the dog. What a good friend Sean is.
4) While I didn’t like the bullies, I thought they were well-portrayed. It was painful to see T— trying to deal with them. I liked his “unsaid” moments… things he said in his mind, but wouldn’t say out loud. He does this throughout the book, and not just with the bullies, but with many of the adults around him.
5) Other elements I liked… Jared’s character arc. I like how that played out. Especially with regards to the photo that T— gives him.
6) I like the cover of the book with the blue-toned black and white image. Especially with how the camera is covering the identity of the boy’s face.
WHAT’S NOT COOL…
1) The adults around T— are somehow amazingly dense (with the exception of Ms. Karamath). The Principal especially and the police officer. I don’t understand why they think T— is such a trouble-maker. Because he’s so quiet? Because Ryan lies about him all the time? I didn’t quite buy this, and so it felt forced to me… like the author said that’s how it is, so there.
2) T—’s attraction to fire… I didn’t think this was set up right. So, he likes to go out and watch houses on fire. I don’t see how that marks him as having SUCH a fascination with fire. Why not make him carry matches around? Why not make it so he light fires in the park? Why not make it so he lights fires in order to take photos of the flames. THOSE would seem like it would earmark somebody with an attraction to fire. But none of that happens in the book (except that he goes to see a few house fires). Oh, and his made-up Zito scale to measure the intensity of a fire. That’s actually quite cool, except nobody knows about this scale but us, the reader. (I’m not even sure Sean know about the Zito scale.)
3) The thing that got to me most of all is the ending. This is what downgraded a 4-star book to a 3-star book, in my opinion. [*SPOILER] I don’t understand why he doesn’t tell his parents, teachers, principal, police that he didn’t set the fire! Why doesn’t he show the pictures of Lucy’s attack!! It doesn’t make sense!!! Especially once Ryan is charged… Can’t these adults see?! I think the author was trying for realism by not having a sugar-sweet-every-works-out ending, and I like that idea in theory. But to make that work, T— would have had to have been a real trouble-maker. If he had been caught, early on in the book, setting other fires (I mean really caught, not framed by a look-alike), then I could see why the adults around him wouldn’t trust him, including his parents. He has SUCH a good relationship with his teacher. Her message that you can change things through photography isn’t fully played out. He has the pictures to change things, but he never uses them. Like I said, I wasn’t convinced by this ending, and so it seemed off to me. [END SPOILER]
My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I liked this book. I liked the message of the teacher that you can change things through photography. Of course, when it comes to photography, maybe I’m biased 😉