Set in the years after the Trojan War, author Scott Locke’s TELEMACHUS AND HOMER tells the story of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, who never gives up hope that his father will one day return home. Though Telemachus gets his wish, the family’s reunion is cut short when their town is drugged and Odysseus is kidnapped by a group of still-bitter Trojans. With the help of Homer, a brilliant but blind girl from his village, and a couple of mythological creatures, Telemachus must journey into Troy to try to rescue his father and save Ithaca.
TELEMACHUS AND HOMER is, at its heart, a coming of age story for both Telemachus and Homer as they struggle to find a place in society. Throughout the course of the novel, we watch them evolve into complex characters who, despite the semi-mythological setting, deal with issues that the novel’s young audience will find familiar. The novel deals with real emotion, from Telemachus’s feelings of inadequacy, living in the shadow of his famous father, to Amaryllis’s post-traumatic stress following the horrors of the Trojan War, which brings depth to the story.
One of the biggest strengths of the novel is Locke’s reimagining of Homer as a blind teenaged girl. Admittedly, she’s not quite as well-rounded as Telemachus is; she’s brilliant and caring and pretty kick-ass, but is so devoid of character flaws that she sometimes comes off as too perfect. That being said, changing our perception of the classic Homer so drastically was a stroke of genius, and Locke’s Homer is a fantastic, strong female character for young readers to rally behind. Telemachus might be the son of Odysseus, but neither the other characters nor readers ever question who’s really in charge.
The language of the novel is somewhat problematic, however, considering its audience. A YA novel should never talk down to its young readers, but it also shouldn’t forget the age of those who will be picking up the book. Take the popular Percy Jackson series, which this novel could be most closely compared to: despite dealing with complicated plot lines (keeping track of all those Olympians is no joke!), the novels are written in a colloquial style accessible to younger readers. TELEMACHUS AND HOMER, however, is fairly dry and at times awkwardly formal, and although the plot may be exciting, the language doesn’t always mirror this. There are a few clever lines, but the novel would benefit from not taking itself quite as seriously.
Despite some awkwardness of the language, TELEMACHUS AND HOMER’s strong characters makes it a great read for fans of YA.
Reviewed by Shaun Fitzpatrick for IndieReader.