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The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

Shame about the cover, my proof copy had a colourful wraparound parchment over the plain cover with a collage of American bald eagles, stalactites and vampire’s fangs amongst the images portrayed.  Underneath the bland exterior of the published book is a rather good debut.

The story is narrated by a seventeen year old girl; we never learn her name, or how she got where she is, her story starts from the day she meets Gunther and takes a lift from him.

Gunther is enigmatic, he doesn’t appear to do anything except drive around mid-America, an ageing hippy, or maybe more of a rocker type, but with a girlfriend in every state, and friends all over too.  He always has money and weed – we don’t know how he gets it – maybe he’s a dealer?.  He obviously has charisma – the girl is attracted from the off even though he’s old enough to be her father.  She fantasises that he’s a vampire, submitting to his icy stare and pointed bite.  Indeed like vampire and it’s food-provider, the pair seem to have developed a similar symbiotic relationship, apparent right from the start of the book…

He’s wondering where to drop me. And he can’t find a place. The world is too ugly, too plain. Every town is an empty blank. And the cities, well, they’re full. As long as Gunther’s acting like some weird detached dad, I’m his little girl. He says it’s a sad state of affairs when the apparent predator is the protector. I don’t understand what he gets all heavy about. We like it here with each other. I don’t want the world to close in, but if they do, surely they’ll see the innocence. Who said ‘All’s fair in love and war’? I hope that applies here. I don’t want him to give me up.

At times the girl seems old way beyond her years, so much so she tempts Gunther into bed.  Their relationship completely changes, but old girlfriends are calling. Gunther doesn’t want to hurt her, he didn’t really want to change their relationship from a paternal one to that of lovers, he leaves her behind at a friend’s house.  She wants to get back at him, but it goes badly wrong, and she has to become a young girl again.  Back on the road she still dreams of reaching New York though …

The girl has to grow up fast as life overtakes fantasy. Gunther as an older man could have been rather creepy, instead he was more of a catalyst. He means well for her, but he changes her life without changing himself – his influence being both benign and negligent. He’ll eventually drive off on the road again. She’ll no doubt be added to the list of his girlfriends in time.  This was an engaging debut with strong characters. (7.5/10)

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I got this book as loot from my Mostly Bookbrains quiznight.  To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

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