March 2, 2012 by Heidi
Author: A.C.E. Bauer [Website|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Contemporary
Published: February 28th, 2012 by Random House
Format: Kindle edition.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Good looking, athletic, and smart, Gill Marsh is the most popular kid at Uruk High School, even though he is only a junior. When Enko, a new kid from Montreal, shows up, Gil is wary. Yet Enko is easy going and matches Gil’s athletic prowess without being a threat. Soon, the two become inseparable friends, practicing, studying, and double-dating.Then suddenly, to everyone’s shock, Enko succombs to an aggressive cancer.
When Enko’s parents take his body and return to Canada, Gil is unable to even say good bye. He is inconsolable. Determined to find Enko’s grave, Gil sneaks away and heads north.
Closely based on the ancient story of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian King from 3000 BC, A. C. E. Bauer has carefully woven the classic elements of myth to follow Gil’s quest and explore the grief and growth of a young man.
As evidenced by the reality that the two 2012 titles to get top ratings from me have been Cinder and The Humming Room, I am clearly a fan of retellings. There’s something so wonderful about seeing a new take on an old story, I love the newness and the familiaritywrapped up in one neat little package for me to enjoy. Sadly, Gil Marsh did not fit the bill.
Gil Marsh was pitched as a contemporary retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh, possibly the oldest epic recorded tale in the world. I read the Epic of Gilgamesh back in A.P. English in high school, and wasn’t especially taken with it. I found it very interesting to compare ancient flood stories and think about the implications this may have had for the Noah tale in the Bible, but it really had nothing on the Odyssey. Still, I found the prospect of a contemporary retelling intriguing, and since it was a very short read (under 200 pages), I figured there was no harm in giving it a shot. Now, I don’t feel like this was necessarily a waste of my time, and I didn’t have high expectations to begin with, but nonetheless I felt Gil Marsh fell short.
I appreciate that this book was written to be simplistic as this can sometimes give a book a wider appeal and make it more accessible. However, simple doesn’t have to equate to shallow, and in this case it did. I would expect a story about a strong friendship, loss, and grief to carry emotional weight, whereas Gil Marsh seemed to only skim the surface of this potential. I didn’t feel invested in Gil and Enko’s friendship, and so it was hard to support Gil’s reactions when Enko died. He seemed petulant, completely illogical in his actions, and I don’t feel as if he grew whatsoever from his experiences.
The story largely surrounded a ring that Enko had given Gil before he died, a family heirloom that came with a story of tragic love and loss. The story was somewhat interesting, but I’m still struggling to understand how this played into the bigger picture of the plot. Was there a moral? Was the moral that things just are? I’m not sure. Additionally, I’m not sure I really understood Gil’s motives in his journey to Canada. I get that he needed closure with Enko, and that it was terrible that he was unable to attend his funeral, yet Gil’s journey to Canada seems to be a confused jumble between wanting to find Enko’s grave, and wanting to find a supposedly immortal man and potentially bring Enko back. Was he planning to run away forever, or did he just want the story of the ring? I honestly don’t know, because it wasn’t really explained, and it didn’t really play out.
I think if we could have gotten into Gil’s head a bit more and understood the emotional drive behind this story, it would have been more successful. Instead, it came across as a very juvenile tale written for an older audience. It was sadly flat where it could have been simple and beautiful, and unfortunately one of my least favorite reads this year.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Um…not so much.
Recommended for: I was hoping this would be a good option for male teens because of its unimposing length and the story focusing on friendship, but unfortunately I don’t think I will be recommending this one to anyone.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Serious poutine cravings. Anyone know where I can get some good poutine in NYC? I’m dying here.