Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store
Mike Wood is a middle school teacher, father, and “author by accident.” It was an injury from an accident, a torn Achilles tendon, that prompted Wood to resurrect his long suppressed dream of being an author, starting this novel during his recovery. He has also been a featured columnist for the Connecticut Post in their Get Out column, writing humor and dating articles. His blog, Blog of Wood, varies from humorous to thought-provoking.
1984 was quite a year, both in America and, more specifically, for 15 year-old Al. He experiences first love and, with his girlfriend Cammie, attempts to solve the mystery of his missing father.
In his bio on Amazon, Wood indicates he had many rejections from agents and publishers, “claiming the book was great, but too hard to market.” After reading Alchemy, I understand why. It isn’t a mystery, although there is a mystery to be solved. It has a protagonist who is the perfect age for a Young Adult novel and I daresay many in this demographic would relate to much of the story – possibly (hopefully) even learn from it. However, some parents might feel that parts of the book aren’t suitable for the younger portion of the demographic; not because it is explicit or crude (it isn’t), but because some subject matter might be too mature for them (saying more would be a spoiler.) Marketing as a Young Adult book might also limit the adult audience, many whom would find the book nostalgic for the time in which it takes place as well as some of the things Al is going through. It is a coming of age story, but that doesn’t help with the marketing angle and also sells the book short –it is much more than that.
I also understand why those agents and publishers liked Alchemy. Wood’s writing voice (or maybe I should describe it as Al’s voice) is different in a way I haven’t been able to identify. Whatever it is that makes it different, it fits the character well. During the story, Al learns about love, in many different forms. He matures, learning that just being himself and being open about his feelings is best. Most importantly, he finds out that things aren’t always as they appear and that sometimes people do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Older teens and adults, especially those who were still young in the 80s, should especially connect with Alchemy.
One minor complaint I had were a few instances where Al’s Great-Grandmother appeared in the story. She spoke in what I took to be an Italian accent and the dialogue attempted to convey this. Where accents in dialogue are concerned, a little bit goes a long way. On the positive side, this was a very small part in only two or three scenes. However, the first was very early, which didn’t get me off to a great start.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars