One night, from cities across Europe, five children vanish, only to appear again at an exclusive party five years later in Manhattan, accompanied by their mysterious governess. These children have been accepted into the city’s most prestigious school, where they quickly raise to great heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary “gifts.” As they cheat, lie, steal, trick and hide, they find themselves suffering from the side effects of their own addictions.
Who is this elegant woman who calls herself Madame Vileroy? And what lies ahead for the poor, unfortunate souls who are tied to her?
How far would you go to achieve your life’s ambition? Would you sell your soul to gain the one thing you desired above all else? What if, on the way to achieving that goal, you became something twisted and inhuman? Would you seek redemption for the things you’d done, or would you be past caring?
These are the questions I asked myself as I read Another Faust and recognized several similarities between the characters in the book and myself and people I knew in the high school or college. I couldn’t help but wonder where they were today and if they had a black mark over their heart.
Everyone who has survived high school remembers these stock characters:
* The Overachiever
* The Beauty Queen
* The Jock
* The Loner
* The Heart Throb
In Another Faust, we view these characters in another way: victims of their need for greatness.
The premise is one we’ve seen before, for anyone who took a British Literature class or was forced to read Dr. Faust or The Picture of Dorian Grey in high school – person sells soul to the devil in exchange for the one thing they want more than anything else, not realizing there’s a greater price to be paid in the end. What Daniel and Dina Nayeri do to this familiar plot by setting it in high school is somewhat inspired, at least to me, anyway.
What I liked most about it was how, even though the characters were hard to read sometimes and you just want to shake them until they see reason, I still was sympathetic toward them all at the end. They were flawed (some more than others) and they all wanted to reach this goal they thought was unattainable if they had to go at it alone. In this I saw the hunger that some unfortunate people have, the hunger that drives them to do things most people wouldn’t do. But what they hunger for won’t bring them satisfaction, and that’s why I sympathized with them.
I also liked the opening of each chapter and the little insights (past, present and future) they gave you about Madame Vileroy and how the devil/demons worked. I still have a ton of questions about her, but I’m content with knowing the little bit about her that I do. Honestly, if the Nayeris wanted to write a book just on Madame Vileroy, I would read it. It could even be a self-help book. I mean, just look at the great life lessons she gave in this book:
If you don’t get caught, you deserve everything you steal.
Even the best liars will believe anything if they want to badly enough.
Or my personal favorite:
Too much supervision is detrimental to a young woman’s development.
Seriously, Daniel and Dina, just think about it.
Moving on…there were some things I didn’t like, unfortunately. The reasoning for Bice being there was difficult to wrap my head around. It seemed like Madame Vileroy overstepped her boundaries with that one. To me, there should have been a structure in place to police her when she did something like that (angels? God?), but there wasn’t.
Also, the ending wasn’t really an ending at all. But then, the beginning wasn’t really a beginning. You were just dropped into the middle of this story and went along for the ride. This just made me twist my mouth to the side and glare at the book when I finished. I like having an ending, mostly because when there’s a definite ending, I’m able to move on to the next book quickly. Now I’m going to dwell on Another Faust for days. Dang it.
So, if you liked examining Faust’s motivations for dealing with the devil in your English class, or sometimes find yourself re-reading The Picture of Dorian Gray because you need a good chill with a side of goosebumps, I would recommend this book.
(And in case you’re wondering, I’m in the re-reading Dorian Gray category.)
Reviewed on WhatchYAreading
on August 30, 2011.