Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith Review

Monday, December 19, 2011

Title: Glaciers
Author: Alexis M. Smith
Publisher: Tin House
Publish Date: January 10, 2012
Genre: YA/Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher

Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture and the imminent loss of the glaciers she knew as a young girl in Alaska.

Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf. For Isabel, the fleeting moments of one day can reveal an entire life. While she contemplates loss and the intricate fissures it creates in our lives, she accumulates the stories—the remnants—of those around her and she begins to tell her own story.
Isabel lives her life in her own little world with a love of everything around her, and a pining love for one particular man. It's a good life, but Isabel wants a bit more, and she must contemplate the intricacies of life and discover that there is something more - that her story can be something more if she wants it to be. It's a choice, and in one day, Isabel has a chance to change it all, if only she seizes the day.

Glaciers is a particularly slim book, and it isn't strictly YA, as I pretty much always review on here. So, you're probably wondering why I decided to review Glaciers on my blog. The synopsis is simple, the book is slim and there's an overriding theme in Glaciers of self-discovery, something often boasted and featured in YA novels, but generally glossed over by mundane details and too many love triangles. Alexis M. Smith has crafted a thoughtful novel (though it's precariously close to a novella) that allows us access into a young woman's mind and lends us an insider's perspective into the culmination of the girl next door's experiences in a life-changing day.

Sweet and sparse, Glaciers resonates humanity in the little details. Rather than cluttering a simple message with overly fancy prose and convoluted plot points, Glaciers holds fast to simplicity, letting Isabel sing through the pages. The descriptiveness of her life, and the understated elegance of the novel allows us to feel the relatability of the characters, and the tiny details all compound upon one another to lend us the climactic moment for which we read. Glaciers takes a risk in that Isabel comes alive through the world around her first, rather than in her actions, but it's done well. Glaciers manages to present not only a plot that is familiar in the fact that it is real and tangible, but also a full range of emotions that promises to tug at your heartstrings at least once.

I will say that I do have a penchant for longer books, but Glaciers will stay with me because it's different and because it dared to surpass the mold. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of both YA and adult fiction, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this ARC free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Sounds like a great crossover, Melissa! I love the theme of self discovery and I'm glad the book is beyond the love interest. Isabel does like an "everygirl" which I'm sure will resonate with a lot of people. Thanks for bringing this book and author to my attention, I never heard of it before but I'll definitely look for it now.

  2. I've never even heard of this one, but I love that it keeps things simple. I find the books with a simple message with strong characters are the ones that stay with me the longest. So glad you're back Melissa!

  3. this isn't a format that often read. like you, i tend to love a longer book...but i certainly will venture into something like this every now and then to break up things.

    i have heard of this book, and i know it is written over the course of a day, no? i can appreciate that structure - the structure of small vignettes - and i think sometimes books like these little ones often pack big punches.

    also, it is neat how this one is somewhat bookish in its plot...the protagonist repairs books. i like bookish things written into books. maybe dorky, but it's just me!

  4. Wow that is short...really short. Not even a book, and I am not good with novellas

  5. I love that cover! It's simple, yet creative. Glad to hear that Glaciers is a worthwhile read! Sometimes the short books can really surprise you. (One I recently loved was Lark by Tracy Porter. Very powerful) Thanks for the review, Melissa! :)

  6. I read the premise on this one and couldn't tell if it was YA. I like your reasons for choosing to read it. Your review makes me want to read it YA or not.


  7. This is something I definitely want to read! Thanks for the great review!

  8. It's amazing how little books that don't seem like they'll be anything special can surprise you. This one sounds like it has a lot of interesting elements plot wise but especially character wise.

  9. Sounds like the author packed quite alot into 112 pages -- I am going to look for this one given the way you describe Isabel and how her life jumps off the pages.
    Hope you have a lovely holiday season Melissa and that the new year is a good one.

  10. Sometimes I love books that are slimmer - simpler the better. This sounds like a keeper for me. I like reading shorter stories to break up other ones.


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