Story Review: Not Even There by J. Scott Sharp

TITLE: Not Even There
AUTHOR: J. Scott Sharp
FORMAT: Kindle – Short Story
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all stories I’ve ever read].
FOR: Fans of mystery, light horror, or anyone who likes good writing and wants a quick, psychologically-minded read.

Roger met Libby for the first time and would do anything to be with her. She's beautiful and popular. He and his best friend are not. Quite the opposite. But then his friend tells him a secret and Roger's whole life goes into a tailspin that he may never get out of. It could be a matter of life and death.

I’ve been meaning to read Sharp’s work for a long time because he’s a lovely person and a very supportive writerly friend. I’m glad I started with this one. It really showcases Sharp’s skill with voice. Not everyone has that talent. Some people can write excellent plots or worlds or characters, but their writing sounds flat or generic. Or just doesn’t fit the character. Sharp’s writing is Roger. You can feel Roger in every word. There’s clearly a unique, real person here.

Not that Sharp doesn’t know plot—obviously not the case, as you’ll realize once you read it. This story hinges on the ending and (though I can’t tell you why!) does it very successfully. I didn’t see it coming at all, based on the beginning, but it made perfect sense once I realized what was going on. The two essential characteristics of a surprise ending. I did have to re-read the ending because the first paragraph was a little confusing, but it was partly out of shock.

The one major criticism I have, which kept it out of 5 range, is Roger’s friend David. I couldn’t reconcile the David from the beginning of the story with the David from the end—the David that would do what he did, if you’ll allow some vagueness. And as my fiction professor used to joke: “I’m sensing the ‘novel’ word.” Short stories need to exist in a microcosm. They can only deal with so much. I feel like there just needed to be more setup to justify the heavy ending, and David’s part in it. But Sharp’s writing has loads of potential. So if this story does show up in novel form someday, you can bet you’ll see my glowing review here.

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