The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan (DRC): Teenage Houdini? Heck yeah!

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3 stars

Mattie has a hidden obsession with escapology, and she’s scared of letting anyone know. When Mattie finally seeks out Miyu, the reclusive daughter to a world-renowned escape artist, she begins to secretly transform herself into an escapologist and performance artist.

When popular athelte Will discovers Mattie’s secret at an underground venue, Mattie’s scared he’s gonna spill the beans. But instead, Will tells her a secret not even his girlfriend knows, and their friendship only blossoms from there as they try to learn how to express their authentic selves.

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On a lot of levels, I enjoyed this.

By the end of the novel, I was feeling pretty good. I had learned a bunch about escapology, followed two teens in their journey, and it all wrapped up fairly nicely. I mean, the entire concept of a teen doing escapology is pretty fun/cute/aesthetic/quirky, and who wouldn’t want to read about that?

But, as I write this review, I also remember how I struggled with this novel during the first half.

The first problem I really had was the narrative structure, but I fault this partly to the formatting of the eARC. Because the book was in my reading app’s font, it made almost everything in regular text size. The headers weren’t really distinguished from the chapters, and certain passages weren’t distinguished from the next.

Because of this, it was kind of hard for me to realize what parts of the book were from the journal of the famous escapologist and what parts were actually the story, especially with the way it flashes back. I like to think that they get a separate page and this’ll be cleared up for non-early readers.

Even if I didn’t have trouble distinguishing diary from actual text, I also struggled a bit initially with how the story was told.

In some ways, this is a pretty normal book. First person past-tense, all that jazz. But it’s also a little abnormal as the narrating characters obviously know a few things they’re not supposed to know. And technically, Callahan isn’t doing anaything incorrect by doing this, but it was a weird adjustment to read about the character talking about themselves.

In the end, though, I got over this and didn’t mind it being structured this way in the end, but I feel like the way it was structured didn’t really do anything for the book.

It was still a fun book, though, and I liked reading about Mattie’s journey with escapology. You can tell Callahan did her research (I chatted with her on Twitter about it at one of those debut chats, etc.) and I found the escapology scenes to be interesting. Plus, the backstory about Mattie’s mentor was cool and well developed and I enjoyed reading about this fictional escapologist.

But, I also felt like there needed to be more plot with Mattie. With Will, the other narrator, there were things going on which I don’t want to disclose, and they did a good job of occupying his storyline (he’s also more minor than Mattie). But I felt like Mattie kind of lacked reason for what she was doing, and there needed to be more substance to her story.

I feel like Callahan tried to justify why she was doing this with the simple “oh, she’s been obsessed with escapology since she was a kid” and the “she needs a hobby for her summer applications” but it also felt insufficient for the story, and I just wanted more reason and resonance to why she was doing it.

This was ultimately the thing I had the largest issue with and wish was improved. But overall, I did enjoy reading this book as I binged it in a couple of hours (me + desk chair + desk as a foot rest + book on phone). I think if escapology interests you, or if you’re looking for a light, lower-investment contemporary, then you should check this one out!

Thank you to Amberjack Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!

much love, vicky

Have you ever read a book about escapology? If so, which one? (I’d love some recs!)

2 thoughts on “The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan (DRC): Teenage Houdini? Heck yeah!

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