Prediction time: Lauren Frankel will become a popular, successful author of psychological thrillers. And when she does, this will be one of those obscPrediction time: Lauren Frankel will become a popular, successful author of psychological thrillers. And when she does, this will be one of those obscure first novels that only hardcore fans read.
Rebecca is a naïve and trusting 30-something who is raising her best friend’s daughter alone. Callie is a popular 13-year-old who is accused of bullying at school, at which point Rebecca’s world begins to fall apart. Little does she know that Callie’s already has.
This is a fast-paced novel with a fair amount of suspense; I found the plot compelling and read through the book quickly. On the other hand, the plot is a bit predictable. Telling the story out of chronological order gives readers new insight on past events, but also results in a couple of clumsy plot points. (view spoiler)[When did Dallas and Ella turn against Callie? (hide spoiler)] The ending is satisfying in some ways, but also perhaps too pat; it feels as if the author was in league with one of the characters, manipulating events in unlikely ways to create maximum impact. (view spoiler)[It is unclear to me why Callie's almost drowning would cause her to be unconscious for days and in the hospital for even longer. And what was wrong with her feet? And for that matter, how is it that Lara, who was following her the whole time to make sure she was okay, let her get in the water and almost drown before pulling her out? It seems to me the author simply realized that if Lara had stopped Callie before she went in, or Callie had gone home that night with Rebecca, her suicide-note blast would seem melodramatic and ridiculous. So the author manufactured false gravity so that Callie's actions could be taken seriously. (hide spoiler)]
The characters – while unlikely to stand out in my memory – are believable. Frankel seems familiar with teenage slang without overdoing it, and the teens’ online communications read as realistic. As do Rebecca’s and Callie’s views of one another; the teenage years are a time of misunderstandings and false fronts and annoyance with one’s parents (or guardian, in this case), and Frankel captures that dynamic from both sides without turning it into a cliché. Callie’s mean-girl friends are on the stereotypical side. On the other hand, other key friendships between women and girls are more complex: are the characters close friends, or is there romantic love there too? Or is the line between the two as clear as many people assume? Frankel does not succumb to the need to pin down anyone's sexuality, or insert gratuitous romantic subplots, which I appreciate.
Meanwhile, this is a very earnest novel about bullying, and many reviewers who have or teach children have found the depiction of online harassment enlightening. It is certainly timely (the day after I finished this book, NPR ran a story about how our ubiquitous mobile devices mean that kids nowadays can’t ever escape their peers, which we certainly see here). But it devolves into a bit of a Public Service Announcement in the end, and beyond the use of technology, the depiction of bullying is nothing new. The book tries to cover why kids bully, but doesn’t get much further than “some feel pressured into it by their peers” – who knows what motivates the peers doing the pressuring.
Though it covers teenage issues, and the writing is as clean and unremarkable as you would expect from a plot-driven novel, I don’t consider this YA and suspect that it will appeal primarily to adult readers who can relate to the mother figure suddenly out of her depth. I enjoyed reading it, but it feels like a talented writer’s first attempt at a psychological thriller. No doubt her next will be better.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a fun series and a consistent one - once you've read the first book (and you really do need to read them in order), you know what you're gettiThis is a fun series and a consistent one - once you've read the first book (and you really do need to read them in order), you know what you're getting. The more time I spent with Aya and her family and friends, the more involved in their lives I felt: this is a fun story that draws you in, with a quick pace, believable characters and colorful, evocative artwork that really brings to life the Ivory Coast of the 1970s. Abouet deals with some heavy topics, like patriarchy and sexual mores, in a story that's fun rather than dour; however, it still seems to me that if (as the marketing seems to claim) these books represent the Ivory Coast (let alone all of Africa) at its best, that country has a long way to go.
At any rate, I'm definitely enjoying this series; the third book has a solid conclusion, but I look forward to reading the following volumes....more
I enjoyed this second volume in the series: the story is engaging, the artwork vibrant, and the characters distinct. I still think the marketing of thI enjoyed this second volume in the series: the story is engaging, the artwork vibrant, and the characters distinct. I still think the marketing of this series overstates its supposed lightheartedness and positivity in a major way; yes, it's set in Africa without including war, abject poverty, sickness, etc., but it's still by and large a story of working-class folks dealing with the fallout of their egregious sexual behavior (the girls' fathers are particularly shameless). Acting like the events of this series comprise the brightest and most hopeful story ever told about Africa misstates the contents of the books and isn't a very positive statement about Africa either. Rounding down to three stars for the abrupt ending; fortunately, you're most likely to read this volume as part of an omnibus, as I did, so you can move right along to the third in the series....more
The opening of this book pulled me in with the promise of a fun adventure story, featuring a woman disguised as a man in 19th century America. But thiThe opening of this book pulled me in with the promise of a fun adventure story, featuring a woman disguised as a man in 19th century America. But this novel is based on the life of a real woman, and by the last third it turns into a tragedy.
In 1855, after a failed marriage and leaving her young daughter to be raised by her family, Lucy Ann Lobdell set out in disguise to earn her living. As Joseph, a teacher of music and dance, she won the heart of a young woman; later, she became a frontier guard in Minnesota and even purchased her own claim. But her attempts to live life in her own way were foiled by a society that viewed her choices as criminal, or as a sign of mental illness.
This is an engaging story, with a well-paced narrative that captures Lucy/Joseph’s adventures in a first-person voice that feels fitting to the period, while including plenty of dialogue for quick reading. The writing style is clean and precise, without excess verbiage, and the tale holds the reader’s attention throughout. It is one of those stories that would seem too wild to believe if it weren't true, and I am glad this author brought it to light. Although a man (married to a woman, with kids), the author succeeds at writing about a woman whose sexuality and gender identity are fluid; there’s none of that obsessed-with-her-own-boobs, only-has-important-relationships-with-men garbage that often gives away a man’s attempt to write from a female point-of-view. And the author has done his research into the time period, creating a setting that feels authentic and is interesting to read about.
That said, I didn’t love this book. The jaunty tone with which it begins jars with the tragedy it becomes; I was prepared for hijinks and thus disappointed when it turned serious. And I never quite connected with the protagonist, whether because the book moves rather quickly through many situations with barely a pause for breath, or because the character isn’t fully-developed, or because the use of the first person to create intimacy with the reader almost always backfires for me (do you have any idea how many books I’ve read about “I”?).
All that said, this is a good book and worth reading. Read shortly after The Gods of Tango, which has a very similar premise; that book is more romantic and has a more luxurious writing style and happier ending, but this one is more immediate and engaging. If you’re going to read one historical novel about a woman dressing as a man, playing the violin and getting involved with women, this is your book....more
I had to get this book through Interlibrary Loan, because none of the excellent libraries to which I have access had a copy. Now I know why.
In DependeI had to get this book through Interlibrary Loan, because none of the excellent libraries to which I have access had a copy. Now I know why.
In Dependence is the rather diffuse tale of Tayo, a Nigerian who studies in England as a young man, and Vanessa, a woman with whom he becomes involved. The author has a lot of ideas, a lot she wants to say about being a student in the ‘60s, about the relationship between Europe and Africa, about writing about Africa and about intercultural romance (I wrote “interracial” first but the cultural aspect is most prominent in this book). But the plot clunks along, the first half focusing on a mundane romance and the second half trying to cover everything that happens to the characters forever after. Meanwhile, neither the characters nor the settings are fully developed; the book never quite brings to life the dynamism of student life in the 60s, and even the main characters have to do with one or two traits apiece.
Meanwhile, the presentation doesn’t help. There’s a general lack of commas, resulting in run-on sentences; there are continuity errors (Suleiman was a baby in 1970 but 18 in the mid-90s?); there’s word misuse, as in, “a ladder of taught muscles” and a “clothes shop come tailoring business, come secretarial services” (sic). The decision to italicize whenever characters are speaking Nigerian English is weird and distracting. Overall, this reads like an amateur effort by someone with a lot of ideas but who hasn’t quite mastered the nuts and bolts of fiction.
Interestingly, there are more reviews of this book on Amazon than Goodreads (which is almost never the case) and those Amazon reviews are overwhelmingly positive, in sharp contrast to the Goodreads average rating. A couple of the Amazon reviewers mention some relationship with the author, and I can't help suspecting that several more neglected to mention it....more