Review: Tape by Steven Camden


Record a voice and it lasts forever…

In 1993, Ryan records a diary on an old tape. He talks about his mother’s death, about his dreams, about his love for a new girl at school who doesn’t even know he exists.

In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die. There, she finds a tape in the spare room. A tape with a boy’s voice on it – a voice she can’t quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her.

Ryan and Ameliah are connected by more than just a tape.

This is their story.


I was completely drawn into buying this book because of the stand-off-the-shelf cover.  It’s bold and really struck my eye when I saw it in the bookshop.  I’d heard about it a little from some other bloggers but apart from the premise, I knew very little. 

Tape is a dual narrative tale about Ameliah and Ryan.  Both teens are dealing with the lose of a parent and a shift in their lives that they aren’t happy about.  In 1993, Ryan is living with his new step-mum and step-brother and is doing his best to make his Dad happy and not get bullied by his new brother.  Ryan is a bit awkward and weird, in the way that most teenage boys are, and he takes to recording his voice on a cassette to help him remember his Mum and speak to her.  In 2013, Ameliah is living with her Grandma after the death of her father and mother, a sad twist of fate that her Mum died and her Dad finds out he is sick shortly afterwards.  Ameliah feels isolated and takes to clearing out space in the home, only to discover boxes of cassettes.  Some are just filled with music but others have a voice on it that seems to be speaking to her.

It’s an easy enough idea to grasp, a time-travel tale with a twist that explores feelings of grief and lose in the teenage years.  Both Ryan and Ameliah seem to be living parallel lives and the connections between them covers much more than just their oddly similar lives.  As the story unravels we slowly piece together how they are connected and it’s through a Tape that links their stories at this perfectly in sync moment in time.

I did like Tape by Steve Camden and thought it was a lovely way to look at lose of a parent and how to deal with the long term after effects.  I liked the switching timelines and learning about Ryan as well as Ameliah but at times, I felt like the story was a bit slow and didn’t have enough to grip me as the cover did.  Most of the plot twists I could guess, bar one which I worked out towards the end, and it made me a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of a story to it all.  I wonder if it had been the tale of one or the other teenager, and not both, if the book would have been more engaging.

Tape is an interesting idea that could have gone further with the premise in some places or perhaps just focused on one characters story rather than two in one book.  Both MCs had strong voices and a story worth telling but they didn’t have room to fully grow.  I’d be interested to see what Steve comes up with next because he can write and create teenage voices that appeal to me, but this book didn’t work on the level it could have, in my opinion.  

A good story about grief but I’d have liked to have two books instead of one.  Worth a look, for sure.

Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books and is available online and in bookshops now.

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