Melt, by Selene Castrovilla (2014)

Ages 15-18
MeltSixteen-year-old Dorothy is new to town, affluent and sophisticated. She’s trying to fit in, and joins her new pal Amy at the local hangout, a doughnut and coffee shop. It’s there she locks eyes and instantly falls for Joey, bruised and damaged but equally smitten. It took all I had as a reader to keep going, especially since the book opens with a brutal description of domestic violence. Written in alternating voices, Joey’s story is written in verse form while Dorothy, the literate one, writes in full narrative prose. At first I thought the shift was also in time, revealing how hate between husband and wife originally began as love. But no, it’s the story of Joey’s family life, intended to reinforce how different the lives are for these mismatched teens. Love has a lot to triumph over here – abuse, alcoholism, snobby parents, and more. I did grow to care for these characters, but it took persistence to get past the beginning. Castrovilla succeeds in building tension, but her plotline was predictable. In an afterword, she reveals the book is inspired by a real story, and therein lies the trouble, methinks. The truth of it perhaps got in the way of a decent plotline – there’s just not enough here. We never understand how the abuse went unnoticed – how could Dorothy be the only person to notice Joey’s mother’s black eye? How will Joey avoid his father’s legacy when he has already begun down a path of jealousy, violence, and alcoholism? Castrovilla ignores all of this, focusing solely on the redemptive power of Dorothy’s love. A Wizard of Oz backdrop just gets in the way, as it’s delivered in a heavy-handed manner that steals any chance of a slow dawning of realization. The “melt” theme also needs a much, much lighter touch. She melts at his touch, his anger melts away, his mother’s resistance melts … stop it with the melting. We get it.
My thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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