Review: Tape – Steven Camden

Release Date: January 30th 2014
Published By: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Pages: 352
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Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Synopsis: 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.


Review: Firstly, I have to say that I love the cover of this book. The simplicity of the cover, together with the bold colours and the fact that it clearly represents the book is something that really appeals to me.

I received an ARC of this book some time ago, and I had held of reading it closer to its release date, but I finally caved after it kept on screaming at me to read it (I apologise that it has taken some time for me to post this review). I will admit, I had high expectations for this book, and I try not to have high expectations going into a book.

Tape follows alternate views of Ryan and Ameliah. Ameliah’s story is told in the present tense, whereas Ryan’s is told from a past tense - but surprisingly this wasn’t confusing at all. I actually enjoyed the alternating POV and the flicking between the present day and past tense.

Ameliah’s story is set in 2013, where at a young age she finds herself living with her grandmother after both of her parents have passed away. Ameliah finds herself reminiscing through her mothers belongings, a guitar, a cassette player and a box full of old tapes filled with music from John Coltrane, and James Brown. It is here that she comes across a tape where she hears a boys voice - most of the time she cannot work out exactly what is being said, but she can pick up on certain words, and for some reason, she just feels the boy is talking to her.

Ryan’s story is set in 1993, and it is here that he makes tapes to deal with this mother’s death. On these tapes he talks about his life, his mother, his father and new step-mother, and of course, his new horrible step-brother, Nathan. He also talks about the girl that he has just fallen for.

The one thing that I absolutely enjoyed, but also found quite amusing that through Ryan’s point of view, we get to experience (or re-experience) life in the 90’s. Through this 90’s nostalgia we get to experience a life a life where things like music and spending time with friends were an important part of your day - and without modern conveniences like mobile phones and internet! And as the name suggestions, this was a time even before CDs! What I really enjoyed about this aspect was the fact that you didn’t miss any of the things that we have come to rely on so heavily either.

I also loved the finer details that Steve Camden incorporated, right down to the static noise of a tape playing - it was these little things that really drew me into the story

And I found it absolutely hysterical that Ameliah and her friend had never seen a tape before, or a cassette player, and found it to be somewhat archaic. I suppose to younger people these days it would seem that way… but for someone like me who had cassettes as a kid, it just made me feel old lol.

Although I did work out the connection between Ameliah and Ryan, it wasn’t too predictable. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but what I mean is that it wasn’t laid out for you right from the beginning and that things happened along the way that either put you on the right course or made you question yourself. And even when you work it out (if you do), there are added little bonus’s that you didn’t think of which were both relevant, and add extra layers to this story.

There are a few things about the printed version that I feel I should mention. This is, of course, assuming the final copy is the same as the ARC. Firstly, I loved the chapter titles of tape labels, and the page numbers being tape wheels - but that is really just cosmetics (but, hey, we all love pretty and cool books). But the other 2 things are more to do with the flow and readability of the book. Each chapter may contain both Ryan and Ameliah’s points of view, and I really liked the fact that rather than having a title with each character’s name, the font itself changed - I felt that this really helped with the flow of the story. The other thing, however, could hinder the flow of the story: this book does not have quotation marks (“) around spoken sentences; instead it has an em-dash (—). After a while I did get used to this, but some might find a little detaching. Below is an example:

— Hello? Come back. Hello?

Tape is written in a simple, but touching and poetic way. Not flowery poetic, but expressive. I guess this comes from Steve Camden’s background as a spoken-word artist. I thought that the whole storyline was well thought-out, and it finishes in a spot where there is some closure, but it is not wrapped up in a nice little bow, but left with possibilities. And I think this was point of Tape - there are so many possibilities when it comes to friendship, love, hope, past and present… and fate. Play, record and rewind - the past effects the present, but does the present effect the past?



“Hello? Come back. Hello?”

“She was Irish. Why was she Irish?”

“I’m glad the universe made you show me your pants”

“I’m here”


Book Introduction: