Exposure by Scott Brockman
4 stars – I liked it; it was good
After finishing my “reading for review” list, I was on the hunt for new content, so I turned to an ARC reader website. After sorting through a few filters, I found this book and was intrigued enough by the blurb to give it a try. I started reading on September 26, 2022.
Finished reading on September 30, 2022.
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A Unique Take on a Unique Power
This book, the first of the series, follows small-town university student Mike Capshaw as he guns for the recommendation for the Petersen and Malvern History scholarship. After discovering his peculiar ability to quite literally dive into photographs, he thinks he’s found the edge that will keep him on top. All he has to do now is balance his schoolwork with keeping this secret from his godparents and professor, all the while with another person vying for the scholarship, a girl in his class named Liv Mortensen.
I can’t remember exactly what the blurb said, but I wasn’t expecting to dive into the story of a history student trying to get a scholarship. I was sufficiently intrigued, though, when Mike discovered his supernatural abilities of photo-diving, and I was hungry to find out more about his power. It is a unique concept to be sure.
I like that the whole premise of this story is small-town, meaning it is low stakes for the world as a whole, but still big for the protagonist, Mike, who you can really feel for. He is just trying to do his best at school, and though he has this power that gives him an advantage, I never felt that he was using it unfairly; the book does a lot to inform you that he is doing his due diligence before diving into each photo, finding sources and hints for the information that he finds while photo-diving since he can’t just claim it without proof.
Mike is a great character who, after a long time of reading indie books with characters I couldn’t relate to, I clicked with instantly. This book brought me back to my high school years—rather than college, as I didn’t take any history classes in college, nor was I as motivated for scholarships then. I really got the sense that the scholarship was important to him, and I was rooting for him to get it. I also liked how the author built up his relationship with Liv. They had a shared interest, and they started as friends. It was refreshing to see a “romance” begin so casually and see how he was trying to support her so far as he gets it wrong. I won’t go deep into what happens to break them apart, but it was so realistic that my heart was racing in second-hand panic. These are problems that can happen in the real world—misunderstandings and overreactions and such—and it was more panic-driving for me than other fictional problems. It was the kind of thing that makes you, as the reader, want to dive into the book and throttle the characters because you know what is really going on and they don’t, and I applaud the author for creating the scenarios so well.
The slow build-up to the climax was confusing at first, as I didn’t know what the “big event” was going to be, and I think it was put together well. With Mike learning and exploring his new ability on his own, I was interested, but I didn’t see how each limit mattered until the end when he takes his abilities too far. I was well and truly worried for his well-being, and the well-being of those around him. Plus, the chapter that takes place while he is in peril, setting up for further frustration, was beautifully inserted as a gap in the tension and a buildup of anger for me.
Moving on, the writing style was simple and easy to follow. The book is set in the present day (around 2022, I believe) as the history students have the opportunity to study the 2021 Capital Riots, and the story very much reflects the mindset of a 2022 university student and all that entails—social media, the slightly spontaneous decision-making, and the importance of relationships. I will say that, unlike other self-published books I’ve read, this author didn’t skimp on editing, as I found very few mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and nothing jumped out at me as inconsistent within the story. He definitely did his research as well, which I admire.
The one thing I was unsure about was rooting for the main character. I struggle to connect with new characters in books, and sometimes I find it hard to be drawn into a story for the intent of rooting for the protagonist. Why should I care if Mike gets the scholarship or not? Is it because he, like many other book characters, has no parents? Is it because he is stuck in a small town and is desperately trying to escape? I’m not sure. I did, however, find it rather simple to jump into Mike’s shoes and remember my own high school experience. All those hours in the library and writing papers—though I was never at the top of my year since it was the year of overachievers, no joke.
This is a book that I really think one of my friends (a history buff and future history teacher) will really enjoy. I don’t know if he himself has ever yearned to enter any historical photographs like Mike, but I feel like he would enjoy the historical context of this book. As such, I recommend this book to university students (to get a view of someone who thinks like them) and those who enjoy historical events with a splash of the supernatural.
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