A Ribbon of Sand

Fiction - General
323 Pages
Reviewed on 12/01/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

A Ribbon of Sand by Mike Shannon is a gripping coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a small island off the coast of South Carolina in 1982. Fifteen-year-old Ash Howe is unique in his neighborhood. He has long hair, loves heavy metal music, and doesn’t seem to blend in socially. Ash struggles with bullying at school and his studies are challenged by his undiagnosed ADHD. However, two significant factors begin to shape his existence: his unrequited crush on Ally, a girl seemingly out of his league, and the eerie presence of a local ghost believed to haunt an abandoned lighthouse on a neighboring uninhabited island. When he finds himself alone in the lighthouse one night, mysterious happenings change the course of his life forever and that of his community.

There is so much that I loved in Mike Shannon's A Ribbon of Sand. Ash is a flawed protagonist that readers will root for. The relationship with Ally is well-written and readers will have sympathy for him as he struggles to connect with her because she loves high social status. The setting is wonderfully accomplished, written with fine details about the locales. The uninhabited island that attracts Ash’s attention will intrigue readers. Shannon excels at exploring strong themes, including racism and the social tension that simmers beneath the façade of a seemingly serene community. The author melds magical realism and strong elements of coming of age to provide entertainment for readers. I enjoyed the robust characters, the crisp writing, and the setting that comes to life in the minds of readers.

Pikasho Deka

A Ribbon of Sand is a young adult coming-of-age novel by Mike Shannon. Set in the early 1980s in Low Country, South Carolina, the plot follows fifteen-year-old Ash Howe, a heavy metal music lover and teenager who tries to navigate school bullies, love, and friendships in a time and place unlike any other. When Ash and his friends aren't playing music with their band, they spend their time on Declaration Island, where a mysterious ghost called the Blue Lady haunts an old and abandoned lighthouse. Meanwhile, Ash has recently started dating his longtime crush, Ally Sherrin. However, school bullies continue to make his life a living hell. But after unwittingly spending a night at the lighthouse, Ash sees the world in a whole new light and discovers the truth about the Blue Lady.

A heartfelt coming-of-age tale with a slight touch of the paranormal, A Ribbon of Sand is a nostalgic ode to the 80s and all it entails. Mike Shannon tells a beautiful story about first love, friendships, and facing one's fears. Set against the backdrop of coastal South Carolina in the early 80s, Shannon's narrative brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the era, creating a nice juxtaposition and showcasing the innocence of youth in their adolescent years having to navigate adult issues such as racial discrimination, heartbreak, bullying, etc. The characters feel like actual teenagers with an agency to their actions and motives. I also loved the bands mentioned, especially the shout-outs to Iron Maiden and Led Zepplin. All in all, this is a feel-good coming-of-age story for all readers.

K.C. Finn

A Ribbon of Sand is a work of fiction penned by author Mike Shannon in the paranormal, cultural issues, and slice-of-life subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. Readers are transported back to 1982, revealing an island off the South Carolina coast where racial tensions and societal norms create a stifling atmosphere reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Ash Howe, challenges local norms with his appearance, love for heavy metal, and social awkwardness. Battling bullying and academic challenges due to undiagnosed ADHD, Ash's life takes unexpected turns with the introduction of two significant characters: Ally, a girl from the popular clique, and a ghost from a local legend haunting an abandoned lighthouse.

Author Mike Shannon brilliantly captures the complexities of adolescence in this emotive and well-penned dramatic work, addressing themes of bullying, identity, and the supernatural. One feature that particularly impressed me was the author’s detailed commitment to character development, showcased in the unique dialogue of each character and the attitudes that have shaped them in the place where they’re living. Shannon weaves a poignant narrative around these figures, allowing readers to empathize with Ash's struggles and triumphs as he meets new people and has his virtues put to the test. The juxtaposition of real-world challenges and mystical elements adds a new layer of intrigue to the story, creating a unique coming-of-age experience that’s a little ethereal but still feels powerfully real. Overall, A Ribbon of Sand is a highly recommended and compelling exploration of resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of choices, making it a captivating read for those seeking a blend of realism and the magical.