I’m not about to launch into a full review of this book, for the simple fact that I loved it far too much . Rather than that, I’m going to use Tom Fletcher’s 2010 novel The Leaping to explain one of the occasional awesome benefits of Crap Looking Books.
The three processes of acquiring texts for Crap Looking Books are fairly simple. Friends, family and fans send me books they think are terrible, I actively seek out texts that others consider to be unbreakably awesome or utter dogshit, and I pick up interesting or quirky books that have slightly dodgy or curious artwork or text on their covers.
The Leaping fitted nicely into this last category. How could it not? Firstly it was very apparent from the cover that this was Werewolf Fiction, and in a Twilight-fatigue world I personally find good werewolf fiction is hard to come by (so much so that I was quite rude to Lord Loss) and would never pass up the opportunity to find more.
The title refers to a specific ritual within the text, that makes a lot of narrative sense and is in itself an extremely dramatic and existential moment… but to the new reader, it’s a little silly.
Seriously. The Leaping. The Leaping. It’s as if Tom Fletcher wrote a werewolf novel, then brainstormed all the different things wolves do in a search for a title. The Howling was taken, of course, and for whatever reason The Gnashing, The Bloodying, The Biting and The Barking didn’t seem right. But The Leaping? It’s about as predatory and threatening as The Chasing Of My Own Tail, or The Glossy Coat.
Once I started reading however, I was utterly captivated. There’s a certain depth to the prose that really gets inside character heads without being too muddied and introspective. It’s thoughts and feelings, not naval-gazing. A living, believable city (Manchester, I’d recognise it anywhere) and friendship group is wonderfully created, and the supernatural sits alongside the mundane in a way that at no point is too cliche or fantastical, but also never feels too commonplace.
I take issue with some of the characters, finding them quite loathsome and irritable, but at no point are their actions or motivations out of line with how they’re presented. I hated them for who they were, not for how they’d been written. I’m not so sure about the pivotal “Fell House” being a mansion, it reads more like a tiny grubby shack, but then I don’t recall any mention of it being a mansion in the text, only in the blurb.
The book really represents the fantastic hot-blooded feeling of “running with the wolf” that is essential to this genre/narrative. Seriously, this book gripped me way more than I was expecting- I read it on my brother’s wedding holiday, hip-deep in Mediterranean swimming pools with an outside temperature permanently over 30°C, but I was still drawn into the dark and bleak world of northern rural England, terrified of the darkness inside and the darkness just around the corner.
So yeah, a book I obviously love, that I only found because I was looking for bad books and saw one I that I wrongly thought was silly.
Chalk this up as win. Crap Looking Book’d.