Solid Debut

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lauren Avatar


As a Michigan resident, I have vacationed in the Upper Peninsula, and therefore, I was excited to pick up a book with a small-town UP setting that, while fictional, could easily be real. The beginning of the book was extremely strong, with the descriptive nature of the writing palatably increased the tension. The forest was vivid, and I loved the insectile descriptions of both people and places. TOGETHER WE ROT contained strong religious undertones, and I loved the way that Arndt tied nature and faith together, particularly for Elwood.

"I would pray, but I think the cord between me and heaven is severed. My roots now dig to hell. And hell is a foot away from my father."

I feel that this book would have benefited from an additional 50-100 pages. While reading, I tried to keep the intended audience in mind, asking myself "would a young adult notice?" when something wasn't explained or fleshed out. The metaphors were plentiful, but the plot itself left many questions unanswered, and not in a way that seemed to be intentionally open to interpretation. I also struggled with the brash nature of Wil's character, which Elwood aptly describes at the beginning of the novel.

"There's nothing soft about this girl. Eyes blacker than dripping ink, her mouth twisted in a permanent sneer. She's the type of pretty that could get you killed; if you stare too long, you'll turn to stone. She has dark roots, hair swinging in jagged strands to her shoulders. All thorn, no flower."

All said, I did appreciate the bittersweet ending, and the book gave me A Million Junes vibes. The absolutely stunning cover gets a 10/10. Overall, I believe that Arndt has a promising future as novelist, but I would have loved to see greater plot development and expansion from this one.