It’s May 4th, and other than it being one of the high holy days for Star Wars fans, it’s my turn on the book review tour for OFF BOOK by Jessica Dall. So let’s get started, peoples!
Ideas are dangerous things, aren’t they? They can breed until you’re overrun with plot bunnies, they can niggle in the back of your mind until you start acting on them—but at the end of the day, what harm can a simple little idea do if it’s just kicking around in your head?
In the case of OFF BOOK, any main or supporting character you’ve ever dreamed up, exists—not just in your head, but in an entire world full of characters thought up by other authors. And they’re waiting for you to get off your keister and write your story.
I haven’t had a book mess with my head, well, ever, if I recall. Not like this. I’ve had book hangovers and heavy cases of the feels, but much like Toy Story’s question of “What do my toys do when I’m out of the room?”, OFF BOOK asks the question of “What do my book characters do when I’m not working on my manuscript?”
The answer has me paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. Most writers I know treat their characters like real people. In OFF BOOK, they are real people—they go to school to learn everything there is to know about the literary world, from genres to tropes (oh, the tropes! Easily one of my favorite aspects of this book.) The life of these pre-storied characters is spent getting prepared for the day they are called up to be in an author’s work. If you manage to survive the author’s story intact, you get to semi-retire and reside back in the character world. But if the author of the book you’re meant for never gets writing, you slowly fade until you no longer exist.
I found myself falling in love with the mechanics of the characters’ world. World building can be difficult, yet Dall had to create multiple ones (the characters call them ‘sets’), ranging from levels of great detail to minimal explanation, mimicking authors of all level of experience. My favorite detail of all about the sets—if the author didn’t write it, it doesn’t exist, much to the chagrin of the characters forced to work there until the story is done.
OFF BOOK is quite satisfying, whether you know a lot about writing or not. Having just discovered TV Tropes last year, any time a trope was mentioned, I found myself cackling with delight. Dall’s level of detail on characters and the worlds they found themselves in were amazing—oh, this is a Tolkien-eqsue story? Film noir? Historical romance? It’s all in there, and everything you love to hate or hate to love about these particular genres comes shining through.
All in all, a highly enjoyable book—I recommend getting your hands on it. REUTS Publications has yet another glorious book in their collection.
May the Fourth be with you!
About OFF BOOK:
Twenty-year-old Eloise has learned all she can from the School, where characters live until joining their novels. No one knows genre and plot structure better than her, but despite her knowledge, she’s yet to be assigned to her own story. All her friends are off starting their lives with their authors—and if Eloise doesn’t get assigned soon, she’ll fade away, forgotten by all.
When she is suddenly offered a job at the Recording Office, she takes the chance to write her own future. Suddenly living among the post-storied, Eloise meets Barnaby Fitzwilliam, a former romance novel hero who hasn’t lost any of his in-story charm. But just as their relationship begins to get serious, everything Eloise has been taught gets turned upside down when she’s sucked into a novel she was never meant to be part of.
Now, caught where the only rules are made by the authors and truly anything is possible, Eloise must find her way back home—or else her life might end before she ever gets the chance to live it.
Set in a world dictated by Authors, OFF BOOK explores the story beneath the stories we all know and love, taking readers and characters alike on an adventure just waiting to be written.
About The Author:
Jessica Dall finished her first novel at age 15 and been writing ever since. She is the author of such novels as Grey Areas and The Bleeding Crowd, the Broken Line Series, and a number of short stories which have appeared in both literary magazines and anthologies. When not writing, she works as a freelance editor and creative writing teacher in Washington, DC.