I gave this book/short story 4.25/5 stars at InsatiableBooksluts.com. A digital review copy was provided by the publisher.
"Gunk was pretty fabulous shI gave this book/short story 4.25/5 stars at InsatiableBooksluts.com. A digital review copy was provided by the publisher.
"Gunk was pretty fabulous short fiction (super-short fiction, even), I have to tell you. I read it on my phone, and that was a first for me, but it seemed fitting with the subject matter–fashion models, “the industry,” agents, and what-have-you. It’s clearly a quick read, but it develops very well in 14 pages; Feehily did a brilliant job of including exactly what you need to know alongside exactly what he wanted you to know. I don’t know how short fiction authors are able to make characters come so alive in such short spans. It’s a magic that I do not possess.
The story centers around a rather unusual happening at a modeling agency–an unusual client-who-is-not-a-client. Gunk begins in medias res, as it would nearly have to: the unusual client has won a contest to pose with Boy George in a magazine. Despite the fact that this kid “just looked like no-one, looked like who the fuck . . . like someone whose name you might have to ask ten times because otherwise you’d get it wrong”, the narrator’s boss decided to sign him to the agency. You know that moment–when your boss has just created a massive pain in the ass for you on nothing but the barest whim, and you’re left to sort it.
Only, everything goes a bit weird. Only, it’s not your routine pain-in-the-ass to deal with. What should have been a simple “see-ya-later, kiddo” doesn’t go at all as planned and the narrator seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown when it comes to a head.
The book flirts with magical realism just a touch; to give much detail would be to give it away, but there are moments where you’re not at all certain if the narrator’s realistic view of events is the truth, or if Jude, the wannabe-model, is the truth. Moments in which they are opposed and you’re not sure who is lying to themselves, but you know one of them must be.
It’s not a cliche of the 80s, either, and that’s nice. There is mention of Boy George and a few references to cocaine, but it’s not steeped in nostalgia-trivia.
Being short, it’s a fairly inexpensive addition to your collection, and an addition that I recommend (digital is the way to go if you don’t neeed that cover art, imo). I’m definitely going to take a hard look at Feehily’s novel, Fever, in which “the town’s one gothic punk, communist and poet laureate (self elected), wants to ‘find out about love’.”
Tip: if you haven't seen An Idiot Abroad, I'd watch that first. It's an amazing companion to the series, but I think it would be a little weird to reaTip: if you haven't seen An Idiot Abroad, I'd watch that first. It's an amazing companion to the series, but I think it would be a little weird to read the book if you haven't seen the series and understand Karl already, and the series format.
If you have seen it and you liked it, this book is great. It doesn't feel repetitive at all (and I just watched the series so, it's still really fresh in my mind); you get a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff and more of Karl's thoughts on travel, including some really great dry, self-deprecating humor. Definitely have a go....more
I originally posted this review at InsatiableBooksluts.com with a rating of 4.25/5 stops at the casino before the rapture.
A review copy was provided bI originally posted this review at InsatiableBooksluts.com with a rating of 4.25/5 stops at the casino before the rapture.
A review copy was provided by W.W. Norton & Co.
First things first: I would not call this book YA. I have seen it listed as YA, and that doesn't feel particularly right to me as a designation. So if you're like me and you tend to de-prioritize books in the YA category, don't be too quick to put this one aside. (But if you're looking for mature YA-esque books for your young'uns, this one would be a good candidate.)
I caught this book on Goodreads; a friend had it listed as "to-read", and that bright orange cover just screams "road book." I love road books. Shit, I worship at the altar of Kerouac. So I clicked, and I found out that The Last Days of California is so, so much more than a road book.
The Last Days of California follows the Metcalf family as they travel from Alabama to California. The reason for their road trip? They're evangelist-types and their cult clan is convinced that the rapture is imminent. Dad is the primary believer (Mom used to be a--gasp!--Catholic), and he decides to pack up the car and max out the credit cards, because The End is Near and they're on a pilgrimage to their leader. Fifteen-year-old Jess is the awkward main character; her older sister, Elise, is rebellious and a little pregs.
To recap: southern evangelists, road trip to California, teenage rebellion and awkwardness. I pretty much had to read it, you know?
And Ms. Miller didn't disappoint on any count. I was left a little breathless at times, actually, with how much I was reminded of my own teenage years, specifically the need to sneak around so I could have my own adventures. One might think that conservative, Christian parents might always have the thumb on their kids, but it isn't so; every time Jess and Elise circumvented their parents with almost pathetic ease, I practically had flashbacks.
The story is primarily Jess's story, and your heart aches for her. She's the younger, chubbier, supposedly less-pretty, expected-to-fill-the-obedience-void sister. She's the one who wants to strike out on her own, but has mixed messages about what that means. Elise sleeps with boys, swears, and questions her father's faith at every turn; she's the reigning champ of teenage rebellion in the family, and she has a push-pull relationship with Jess that makes it both inevitable and impossible for Jess to follow directly in her footsteps.
And Jess is a lovely person, though she doesn't know it yet. She's got an amazing loyal and loving side that balances out the mild teenage brat tendencies, that smooths over her conflicts with Elise. She's a character you want to know more; she and Elise both drive you through the book because you don't want to leave them.
Miller painted all of the characters beautifully, and their relationships feel real; it's like reading a memoir, almost. The father has almost the perfect mix of hardcore believer and not-really-believer; you know the type: he has a gambling addiction and wrecks his body with shitty food, but he puts on a very pious face and really thinks he believes what he says. It would be easy to go overboard on a character like that, to make him too much, or make the sister too rebellious, the mom too long-suffering, but Miller's deft touch kept her cast of characters from being caricatures. She balances them beautifully.
I don't think it's a spoiler to say that, clearly, the rapture doesn't happen. But so much happens on the way--the characters grow so much--that I don't think you'll mind. Do recommend. ...more