“Book Review: Storybook, Inc.”
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
A psychological, cinematic experience of battling depression
Author Parker Pace has a unique point of view on storytelling, especially through the cinematic enigma that is Storybook, Inc. This novel holds a shining movie-like quality that details the real and maybe-not-so-real experiences of the protagonist, allowing readers to easily picture a strong romantic crime drama on the page.
This novel opens at Mica’s school, specifically in Principal Goodman’s office; the two are meeting with Mica’s mother and stepfather to speak about her depression. Principal Goodman offers them a brochure for a boarding school called “Storybook, Inc.,” whose motto is “We fix things that are broken.”
Mica’s initial concerns are dingy dorm rooms and cafeteria food, but soon after accepting the invitation, she begins to question the validity of it all. Shortly before violence breaks out on the train to the school, she meets Roman. Handsome but cold, it surprises Mica that he volunteers as a sort of protector for her—one she might not need but deep down wants around. They ditch the train, and she continually faces the sensation of being followed, the belief that she was set up and that her family will undoubtedly suffer.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the novel is its character development. Although harsh to others and anything but a ray of sunshine, Mica Psmith often proves to be reasonable and clever. She’s in for a wild ride, but she never falls into any obvious pitfall. It is refreshing that Pace does not take the easy road in this novel. In fact, she made me, the reader, feel like the dense one in the end.
As for Roman, his character is mysterious and intriguing, but essentially takes the backseat to Mica’s. Sure, he acts as her guide in a deeper sense, but she makes her own choices and provides the majority of the action. What’s especially important to note is the fact that Mica has to battle her depression and ill-opinion of most people, on top of all the chaos surrounding her. Author Parke Pace graces us with a female main character who can have these emotional layers without absolutely crumbling to external forces. Instead, Mica’s strength emerges naturally from the challenges she faces.
The pace of the novel is nearly pristine. I was surprisingly hungry for the action (which I often never am), and it comes in at perfectly inopportune times, like tender, frustrating, and intimate moments between Roman and Mica. The author manages to maintain this ebb and flow between the two characters authentically, even for the circumstances they are in and the pressure they are under.
Storybook, Inc. is a psychological thriller that is probably going to mess with your head. I was entirely unprepared for the truths that are revealed in this story. Mica wonders if what she sees and experiences is a trick of the mind, if what she feels for Roman is for real. If you ask me, there is no better way to portray the experience of being a young woman than placing her in a world that is constantly telling her she is crazy, or seeing things, or beyond repair.
In a world where writers too often stagnate women characters as the damsel in distress, this book gives permission for us to have a depressed woman character who can still thrive, without leaving it all up to the man.
Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Paperback: 352 pages
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