My Life as a Bench by Jaq Hazell
Rating : 3/5
“Life as a Bench” – these words popped out at me from a list of books at NetGalley and I started thinking how WILL life be as a bench! I definitely had to read this book just to know what was going on. Soon, I was turning page after page reading this tale of love and loss filled with amazing music. My Life as a Bench tells the story of Ren Miller who passes away at the young age of seventeen yet her consciousness continues to live on attached to a bench erected as her memorial by the side of river Thames. Waiting for her boyfriend Gabriel to visit her at the bench she is devastated as the suspicion of her death falls on him. Now it is upon Ren to communicate with someone living so that Gabriel can be freed and the actual culprit identified.
The novel boasts of a unique story where life and death go in parallel and are shown as two parts of a coin. The story alternates between Ren’s present as the consciousness tied to the bench and her past when she was alive and living to the fullest. The character of Ren is a typical teenager in every way – clothes, rebelliousness, friends, boys, hangouts and minor heartbreaks. Her life will definitely remind the readers of their care free college days. Anything a typical teenager does, Ren and her friends have already done it. Jaq Hazell has nailed the portrayal of teenager with their social media addiction and weird slang.
The novel strikes some balance between teenage immaturity and adulthood maturity with the presence of Lionel, a fellow consciousness and Ren’s neighboring bench in the park. He acts like a friend and mentor to Ren and balances the youthful drama of her character. The story heavily focuses on loss and questions how much time we have to live and how we live it. Ren and her father never got to build a meaningful relationship as they both thought they have all the time in the world till one day tragedy strikes. Similarly, Ren and Lionel feels they have all the time before them to share stories and give each other company when, again, destiny interferes. The novel makes us realize the fragility of time, in life and beyond.
One of the turn off for me was the heavy use of teenage slangs. Although it was required for this story I, personally, am not a fan of that language. Luckily, the author has provided a dictionary of sorts for the uninitiated. The alternating between bold font and regular font to narrate the story of Ren as a spirit and her regular life also confused me at some point and was deemed unnecessary. At some places there was a repetition of few details when Ren reminisces about her past and I was a bit unhappy with this. As the incidents before the death spans only few months, the narration would have worked well even without the repetition.
Overall, My Life as a Bench is a fast paced story with a very unique story line irrespective of the predictable story. It is definitely an enjoyable read that will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride.