Unpaid Leave: A Review of Koko Takes A Holiday

I picked up this book while I was on holiday (see what I did there?) in London this summer because between the cover art, title, and synopsis it just seemed like it would be a damn fun read. And I have to say, Kieran Shea’s debut novel does not disappoint on that front. Honestly I found very little that disappointed in this book, and while it wasn’t an earth shattering read, it was certainly a fun, action-packed, page-turner.

Shea has a great writing style and utilizes a lot of slang and accents in his characters’ speech. He hops between character POV fluidly, usually between chapters, but sometimes seemingly between scenes, yet it’s never confusing and always adds to the larger picture of what’s going on. He also has a lot of short chapters that are written as screenplays for advertisements in the world. While they don’t add directly to the plot, they certainly add to the style, feel, and world-building of the setting.

Tone wise, the story is consistently tongue-and-cheek from the way that characters think about or react to situations, the content of the ridiculous, over-the-top advertisements, and even to the chapter titles. I was also impressed by how well all of the characters were drawn. Each one fits well in the story and remains consistent to its tonality, in his or her own way, but they also read differently and convey different aspects or perspectives of the world.

The one thing that I didn’t particularly like, or at least that I think could’ve been done better, was the handling of the reveal. Essentially Koko is driven into exile from her life by her boss and former mercenary partner, but the reader isn’t told why. Koko figures it out long before the reader, but she won’t say what the reason is “out loud” until towards the end. Personally I think the story might have been more elegant if there was a way to construct the story so that the reader figured out why Koko was being pursued at the same time she did. The information was being withheld strictly for the sake of the reveal, and it felt a bit contrived. At least the story was in third person, so not knowing something about a character didn’t feel entirely disruptive to the narrative flow.

Overall I would definitely recommend Koko Takes a Holiday, especially if you’re looking for a fun read in a near-future setting. I’d also recommend it for any authors who want to read the work of someone who can convey a great amount of tone and style through the third person and through many different characters.

Anyway, this will be my last blog post before the new year (as the next one will be out on Friday), so I hope all of you readers out there have had a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you have a very Happy New Year!


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