Book Review: Echo by Kate Morgenroth

Title: Echo

Author: Kate Morgenroth

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 144

Rating: C+

Recommended?: No


WARNING: THIS BOOK REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

I was tempted to give this book a higher rating. There were some things I really liked about it but I felt like the ending was a disappointment and overwhelmed a lot of the book’s stronger moments. If this novel had a different ending I might have given it three or even four stars; That’s why I don’t feel like I can review it without giving some major spoilers.

Echo is about a teenage boy named Justin whose younger brother, Mark, accidently shoots and kills himself with a handgun in front of him. On the anniversary of Mark’s death, Justin appears to be living the same day over and over, the day he pushes the school bully Billy down a set of stairs and seriously injures him.

There are changes in the time loop, but it seems like Justin is unable to change his actions or get a different end result. At first Justin is portrayed as a helpless victim- teased, tormented, and given the cold shoulder by his ruthless bitch of an ex-girlfriend. Gradually, though, the situation becomes clearer and we discover that Justin is an abusive bully.

He was a bully BEFORE his brother died and now he’s even worse. Everyone, even his own parents, are afraid of him. He’s created a false narrative in his mind where he’s the wronged one to absolve himself of some of his guilt. I actually thought the unreliable narrator aspect was really interesting and well-done. I

t’s sometimes a bit heavy-handed (like when Justin alludes to the literary device when his class is reading Lolita. It’s like yeah, we get it! Justin’s an unreliable narrator too!) but it’s also a big part of what makes the book different from dozens of other problem novels of its ilk. The problem is what happens after the loop ends and Justin is forced to face the consequences of his actions.

But it’s arguable that he really faces the consequences of his actions at all. The whole thing is wildly implausible. It turns out the whole ‘loop’ is a hypnosis session Justin is doing with his therapist after pushing Billy down the stairs. Billy and Justin used to be friends, and they were both popular guys and bullies.

The thing I really didn’t get about the ending was that it acted like Justin and Billy were going to be friends again. There’s no discussion of possible legal consequences for what Justin did to Billy. I would think Billy’s family would have something to say about that, at least. Plus, Billy’s a bully. If they’re friends again in all likelihood Justin will just continue to bully people.

That’s not really a positive character arc for Justin, even though it’s portrayed as such. He doesn’t even try to make amends with the gay kid, Daniel, he roughed up in the boys’ bathroom. So Billy (who isn’t as bad as he was originally made out to be in Justin’s narrative but is still a freaking asshole) deserves an apology but Daniel doesn’t?

Justin will probably be beating him up again in a week. I couldn’t believe Justin just got away with the shit he pulled. I was sure he was screwed after attacking Billy and putting him in the hospital but the whole thing was resolved quite easily. It felt downright lazy and largely ruined the book for me. It had a lot of potential and I ended up feeling very cheated.

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