Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Verdict, No. 8

The cover uses buzz words like "haunting," "tender," "honest." I mean, look at that girl: doesn't she seem desperate for closure? Or at least for spinning around in great, beautiful circles? It seems like it should be about redemption. They even describe it as some great revelation on loss and love and moving past and moving on. Sounds real moving, doesn't it? To be honest, though, I felt uncomfortable reading it. It was trying trying too hard. All those busy words, happy-feely worlds? LaCour was determined to fulfill them all, and that was just too much to manage in 250 pages or less.

It was as if LaCour threw an entire season of an ABC Family drama in a blender and then dumped it all on the rather-innocuous narrator. There was too much happening at once. Every teenage stereotype and cliche was introduced and swiftly brushed over. All that was missing was a calorie-counter struggling with an eating disorder. It felt messy, trite, dull. Even the narrator seemed bored. There was no journey, no moving forward. There was just jumping from scene to scene, each chapter sounding more and more like a bad public service announcement.

Don't cut yourself, it says. Don't have sex with strangers in seedy parks. Don't ignore your parents. Don't judge people. Don't suddenly take off your shirt and make out to feel better. Don't not talk about it.

Do build a tree house with your bare hands.

It was dizzying, reading it. It was excessive. I almost think it would have played out better on television, that the characters would have made more sense in a serial where various eccentricities and unfinished story lines could have played out, all while dramatic music purrs in the background. As is, the novel fails to impress. There were scenes. Snippets. But nothing tied them together. And most of it never played out.

Like the snotty queen bee who had a couple useless interactions with the main character. Or the friend of a friend of her boyfriend who suddenly shared a private moment with her at the end that just made no sense. Or the fact that her new friend's a lesbian, and that matters to everyone in the beginning but not later. Then there's the teacher's strange and overwrought version of mourning. And how her parent's handle her. Or the suicide's sibling (I think it was) suddenly showing up to ask about music. The suicide's parent's hug that lasts an entire page. There's the random bad girl at school she hangs out with for two pages. Or the other random girl she gets jealous of when she sees her with her new/ex/old/new friend. How she knows how to build a tree house. How her boyfriend doesn't know this key fact. How they all brush over revelations in little snippets of dialogue that just lead into another hasty kiss. There's the production of Romeo and Juliet. The old theater. The old theater being torn down. The million cups of coffee. The photography. The driving. The making out shirtless. Even the journal.

Rest assured, for all that, there is no pay off. If it's confusing sounding, be sure it's even worse reading it. Nothing was ever fleshed out. So much was never explained. I never knew why I should care. If it was just LaCour's way of setting a realistic scene, it backfired. I've never trudged through something that felt so entirely contrived. Even the main plot point--the suicide due to depression and the journal that reveals it--felt flat, unimportant, unexplained. I wasn't satisfied. It just fell together and...then it ended. It wasn't sad; it was mostly disturbing. And I was bored.

A novel wasn't the right form for this story to take. It was so poorly done from start to finish that it can't even settle for being a disappointment. That suggests good expectations and hopes that were just never met. But, no, this book was no only completely unsatisfying, it was a disaster.I threw it in the trash, actually. Because, for three bucks, that's exactly where it belongs.

No wonder kids hate to read.

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