Tramp Life

Tramp Life (Pearly James Chronicles #1) by Tony Telford (2017)
-eARC Review-

tramp life

YA Fiction | Science-Fiction
2 Stars

“‘There is another world, and it is in this one.’ Pearly James is fed up with being lonely. She’s fed up with her pointless, boring school life. And she’s deeply fed up with the fake, numbing, conformist world of screen culture that seems to enslave all her schoolmates. She just knows there must be something more. Change is what she really wants, but who or what will make it happen? Enter Bernard O’Hare, the computer genius with his trademark black overcoat and green, staring eyes… Both an adventure and a cry against the new global conformity, Tramp Life is the story of how one girl discovers another world hidden behind humdrum existence. A world of danger and delight, music, madness…and maybe friendship, too.”

Expected Publication Date: January 27, 2017 

pooled ink Review:

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

Okay…where to begin…well, to summarize my reaction to this book in one word: What??

I am incredibly confused. To be honest the whole book was vague, weird, and confusing. I kept getting this feeling that there was supposed to be some great philosophical undercurrent or like some underlying theme of how people are glued to phones/computers/TV and wired into thinking like sheep but honestly I didn’t grasp it. I mean I guess I get that Pearly is on some journey to discover a world within this word or whatever, like a world without screens and where a person can just live and be free and express themselves but…I probably wouldn’t have gotten that without reading the book blurb first. While I felt like something profound was supposed to be there or trying to break through the surface I didn’t find it clear at all. Like I said, vague.

So the beginning of the story had me interested. I was interested in the protagonist Pearly and then when the weird stuff with O’Hare started happening I was like whoaaah what’s he up to? So that got me really interested…but then, like, nothing ever happened with that. Skip it if you don’t want to know but here, I’ll give you a summary of the plot:

Pearly lives with her aunt and is lonely at school. She doesn’t watch TV. One day this guy named Bernard O’Hare starts staring at her at school like a total creeper. Things get worse as O’Hare increases his stalking. Pearly runs away from home and heads towards the City with her little dog. It turns out O’Hare is following her all the way to the City. He’s creepy. Pearly arrives in the City and meets some other runaways who live together and is invited into their fold. They also do not watch TV. O’Hare is still being a psychopath except now Pearly’s new friends are affected as well. Pearly’s little dog is taken by O’Hare. They hunt down the dog and weird sci-fi crazy stuff happens to them almost like an alien movie meets a horror film type weird stuff where you’re shouting at them “Don’t go in there!” ya know? There’s finally that climactic confrontation scene between Pearly and O’Hare where absolutely nothing is clarified or explained. She asks him questions that we all want the answers to and he just brushes her off then swan dives off a tower only to disappear into the night. Pearly and her friends decide to leave the City.

Look, the whole ordeal with O’Hare was really creepy and disturbing, which I’m sure it was supposed to be, but it was made worse by the fact that literally no one knows why and no where are we told anything about who he is, why he’s harassing Pearly, how he’s able to do anything he does, where he’s from, or what the heck is going on. Obviously if this is going to be a series then you can’t reveal all the details but you’ve got to give up some. Enough to grasp onto but little enough to keep us blundering forwards in the dark searching for more. Also I sort of feel like they should be freaking out a heck of a lot more. It’s one thing to be dealing with a psychopath but a psychopath who doesn’t even seem human?? That’s a whole other level, bro.

While I can follow what happens technically, overall I’m just feeling a bit lost and confused. Perhaps it’s just that the whole O’Hare thing is left so vague and unexplained. It’s all so odd and vague and nonsensical, and although I kept reading the book anyway my interest steadily dropped off as it seemed clear that no explanation was going to be offered. The whole story kept jumping between a YA Contemporary story about a teenage runaway and a YA Sci-Fi Thriller about a robot/alien/??? psychopath saying that the end of humans is nigh.

Okay, some positives. I really liked Pearly and her runaway friends. They were cool. I just wish the story fleshed everything out a bit better. It was rushed, vague, trying too hard to be mysterious or profound or something, and while the basic plot could have some potential the overall execution is left wanting.

I feel awful when I can’t give someone a raving review but not every stone can be a gem, right?

Anyway, I’m glad I got the chance to read this just for the experience I suppose, but I can’t whole-heartedly recommend it. If any of you have or do read this book please let me know your thoughts on it! Maybe it’s my cold or maybe I’m just too dense to understand it. Maybe a second read-through will enlighten me? Gahhhh I just feel unsatisfied. Oh well.

Tramp Life kicks off with interesting characters and a spine-tingling plot but peddles its legs over the edge of a cliff with its vague theatrics.


amazon icon_tiny Purchase here: Tramp Life

Dear Telford:
I really wanted to love this but I just didn’t. I’m so sorry! I know there is an audience for this book and I’m positive they will genuinely enjoy this story. Unfortunately it turned out not to work for me but that doesn’t mean people won’t love it (: Best of luck.

Meet Tony Telford!

For about twenty years Tony worked as an academic and researcher, specialising in English Renaissance drama. In 2008, however, he was forced to abandon his academic career because of ill health. In retrospect he sees this as one of the best things that have ever happened to him, because it allowed him to concentrate on writing.


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