Conflict wraps up too neatly with not enough exploration of each character's personal issues. Focus is on establishing a romantic connection between tConflict wraps up too neatly with not enough exploration of each character's personal issues. Focus is on establishing a romantic connection between two broken individuals. Ridiculous plot points (the pig!?) and disappointing insight....more
It would be easy to get frustrated with The Stone Girl, and it happened many times as I read it. Third person doesn’t typically bother me, even thoughIt would be easy to get frustrated with The Stone Girl, and it happened many times as I read it. Third person doesn’t typically bother me, even though a lot of the YA that I read is written in first person. Before I read YA, and while I’m not reading YA, third person is kind of the standard. But there was a removed quality to the writing that made it difficult to really get into. It makes sense – Sethie is a girl who is so far removed from herself that it wouldn’t make sense any other way. But the overuse of names – especially of Sethie’s grew to be annoying. I was glad that it was so short, because I don’t believe I could have finished anything much longer. Eating disorders are tricky to write about. No one person has the same story of how their eating disorder developed, and it’s always interesting to see the unique start for each person. But we don’t get a sense of where she came from, and where it started. We get a sense of what happens during the book of course, but we aren’t shown any real way that Sethie changes, grows, or how things might end up for her. It’s all very hopeless – and if that was how this was intended to be, that’s great. But reading the author’s note, I don’t know if that’s the case. Some parts of the story don’t add up, either. Her parents are woefully absent, she’s enmeshed with a guy who doesn’t have much of an interest in her outside of sex, and she’s starving herself. Not to mention the drugs she’s gotten involved with doing? But somehow, she manages to keep her grades up – although that would be fitting for eating disorders that stem from perfectionism, it doesn’t really make sense here. It would have been great to get to know Sethie’s mind, how her depression and eating disorder worked. There was countless explanation of how Sethie hated her body, but very little of how it changed how she perceived other things. Eating disorders are usually not just a matter of “I think I am fat, so I will starve,” but can seep into other parts of a person’s life. It can show up in so many different rituals, but we got so little of that from Sethie. There are so many fantastic, mind-opening, beautifully written books (and memoirs) about eating disorders that it would be difficult for me to imagine recommending this to someone. ...more
Once in a while, a book tries to pack too many issues into too few pages. When that happens, either we miss out on some great possibilities with charaOnce in a while, a book tries to pack too many issues into too few pages. When that happens, either we miss out on some great possibilities with characterization, we miss out on some interesting plot, or the writing suffers. With Never Enough, the bits of plot took the focus. Characterization and writing fell to the wayside. But the weird thing about that is that the plot took about 200 pages to get going? Until we’re already deep into the book, it’s like nothing is happening.
We’re given hints about what’s wrong with Claire from the start – and if you read the synopsis, you’ll be aware of what’s wrong, and what to look out for. But aside from that, Claire doesn’t have much of a character. She’s angry, she’s sick, and she’s volatile. Her relationship with Loann, which I thought would be the focus of this book, gets buried underneath scenes where the two battle for power at dinner. They’re focused on battling and showing off the battle for their parents – specifically, the mother – and it still feels like nothing happens, and we don’t get to really know the two outside of this.
It’s only when Claire’s condition is really shoved under her parents’ face that the action starts – and although I’m not saying we need books to be jam-packed with non-stop action, some of the smaller side plots took focus when they would be better used elsewhere. When you get to the last half of the book, everything happens. And yeah, sometimes that’s how life goes. But in a book, you want things to be spaced out a little more.
The biggest issue with this is Loann. You know from the start she’s got some dangerously low self-esteem – she even uses her name (Low, below Claire, and Ann, boring) to explain why she’s just the absolute worst. She doesn’t have many interests until this guy Marcus comes along, and after that, she exists in two modes: Marcus or Claire. We don’t see a lot of characterization outside of what Claire worries about – and she’s not even a particularly fretful worrier, it’s just all that occupies her story. The fights she gets into with her friends are shrugged off and brought up time and again, but she never reflects on them. You never understand why she’s bummed, because you don’t know if she’s bummed, and you don’t really know what it was like before they all fought.
The budding friendship with Marcus, his moodswings, and his own life problems, were what pushed this over the top. People all come with their baggage, but he came with too much to make Never Enough work. The good thing is that his existence encouraged Loann to experiment and try photography a little more seriously. She gets her mind going, takes a lot of pictures -- but you have to wonder if, without his presence, would Loann take as many pictures? Would she have the drive to? She's given the camera at the start of the book, but doesn't put it to very good use until a boy finds a way for her to.
We don't learn what's all that interesting about her crush on Claire's boyfriend -- only that he's Claire's boyfriend now, and so it's an added level of competition for the girls. He smiles, and later takes advantage of Loann's relationship with Claire, but that's it. Again we read the characterization falling wayside, while issues are shoved forward. He's just another "thing" that happens to her.
The pacing issues were not the only writing problem for me with Never Enough. Loann’s voice was dull, almost painful to read. The parts where she faces off with Claire are the most interesting, because she actually has feelings that she’s expressing. But any other time, she’s observing things, and they aren’t particularly awesome, or interesting. There’s no spice to her voice, and so when you’re done, she blends into a sea of other unhappy teenagers.
A brighter, more vibrant voice wouldn’t have completely fixed Never Enough, but it could have given the book more perspective....more
After reading Vivian's Not That Kind of Girl, and thinking about the idea behind this book, I was super interested in reading it. The idea of this beiAfter reading Vivian's Not That Kind of Girl, and thinking about the idea behind this book, I was super interested in reading it. The idea of this being a school tradition, and seeing the reactions of everyone on the list, was something that was sure to be really interesting. Lists like this happen unofficially in high schools, although I’d be surprised if anyone actually did a “paper” version of them anymore. It seems like places like Facebook or Twitter would have taken over, and given teenagers the room to hurt one another. Then again, the book clearly mentions how it’s definitely a tradition.
(Though I have to argue that someone is going to have seen whoever put the lists up everywhere, because what school isn’t cautious about things like that? What school doesn't have limited access in the morning?)
With eight perspectives, each one of them girls on the list, there’s a lot to cover. However, Siobhan Vivian did a great job of juggling them. It was easy for me to keep up with whose perspective I was reading from, and it was easy to remember details of their little stories when it was time to come back to them. We did not go very deep into anyone’s lives, and a few of the characters blended together because they’d be mentioned in another character’s section (as friends, sister-of-friend, etc). That could get a little confusing at times. If the point of view was the only thing I had to talk about, this would probably be the shortest review I’ve ever written.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. My major complaint about Not That Kind of Girl was how ridiculous the extremes were in the book. The main character of that book was a “prissy” and “uptight” pseudo-feminist, and that was the whole premise. In The List, we see all kinds of extremes play out with no middle ground. There is the character with the eating disorder, the character who obviously tries too hard to be different, the Mean Girl, the New Quiet Girl, the Pretty Sister, the “Butch” athlete, the Ugly Sister, etc. Each of the girls on the list had a defining characteristic that was there at such an extreme level, it was hard not to just think, “Well, duh, of course this is going to cause conflict.” There is no middle ground within the girls on the list, and that is peculiar. Once again, I feel like there is a message that Siobhan Vivian is trying to get across to readers, but it gets lost, and I don’t actually understand the point.
I did like that there were some characters we were made to dislike strongly right off the bat: Danielle's boyfriend, for example. From the very first interaction we have with him, and the advice he gives to Danielle about how she should react to the list, is awful. He's a huge jerk, and we know that, but unfortunately it takes Danielle more than half of the book to see him for what he is, and to see that her being on the list bothers him like it does. It's really pathetic, and I love that we get that without any mixed message in between.
Yes, the list is bad. Yes, girls get hurt. But instead of looking at how destructive it could really be (although many of them mention how they feel about being on it, and many of them say that they wish they weren’t, we’re given just a few days to look at the fall-out), we look at what they do or did to “deserve” being put on the list. That part bugged me, because I’m not sure that’s how it was meant to be. For some of the chapters, it's as though the story is being angled so we don't necessarily feel bad for the girls, but we understand why the list writer chose them. One girl is horribly mean to her classmates -- that means she deserves to be called ugly, right?
We find out who wrote the list, and I really did like the fact that it wasn’t wholly apparent the entire time. It kind of came out of nowhere, out of somewhere, and it didn’t take over the entire plot. Oh, right, there is actually a plot that comes in somewhere mid-way in the book, or at least it comes off like it’s the plot. This was more of a character-study kind of book, which there aren’t nearly enough of in YA. But for it to be as powerful as it could have been, I would have liked to see a lot more focus on the actual girls, and not just what they did to be put on the list.
I would also like it if this book hadn't been an active competition to see which character could call girls whores and sluts the most. I get it, writers have to make things realistic -- but how realistic do you need to go? Do we really need all of the characters being as gross as possible? Do we need to have it reinforced that girls slut-shame and all of that? Writers, please. Stop making slut-shaming and misogyny normal and acceptable. I promise it won't make your books less authentic if a character doesn't call someone a slut for kissing in the hallway.
Siobhan Vivian seems like the kind of writer who is capable of putting very poignant books out there for young girls to really enjoy. I hope that she continues to write along these lines, because as time goes on, the pseudo-feminism will hopefully fade away and we’ll be left with Actual Feminist Books for Teenage Girls. That's my hope, at least. I’ll eagerly look forward to her next books. ...more