Jenny's Reviews > Streamline

Streamline by Jennifer Lane
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's review
May 08, 2012

really liked it

Rating: 3.5/5

Streamline is a dark and powerful story, one that weighs heavily on our minds and hearts as we find ourselves both fascinated and disgusted by the painful lives of the Scott family and those closest to them. While reading, we find ourselves with conflicting urges–the desire to cast the book aside and retreat back into the safety our reality at odds with our need to keep reading as though our knowledge of Leo and Audrey’s battles will provide them some form of comfort. From the first chapter, the excruciating secrets Leo keeps from everyone regarding his home life sit like lead in our guts, and every time his military commander father doles out his idea of “discipline”, that tangible weight seems to double until even the tiniest movement of our fingers to flip the pages is met with resistance and leaves us utterly exhausted.

Leo is a study in extremes: unbelievably strong mentally and physically not only as an athlete but as a survivor of repeated violent abuse, yet at the same time he is emotionally vulnerable to a staggering degree as years of beatings and verbal lashings have taught him to believe he is deserving of such cruelty. His story is not one of steady growth and improvement until we reach the end and have a happy, healthy young man where a damaged one stood before, instead he realistically struggles all the way through, making several small steps forward only to fall back several a few chapters later. Through every hard-fought battle however we cling to the hope that Ms. Lane would not be so unkind as to tear him down without building him back up, and we meet each page with a heady sense of anticipation that maybe it’s the one that finally grants us his happiness.

Ms. Lane pulls no punches in her depiction of the Scott family, eschewing the paranormal in favor of a very human monster, and it’s nothing short of heartbreaking to watch the violent and blustering cyclone that is Commander Scott suck his family into a rotating vortex of pain, lies, and betrayal. Commander Scott operates at the far reaches of the emotional spectrum, his anger never expressed quietly or approached logically, instead his own dark past and his rigid military training create a composed, put together man hiding a hair trigger under his perfectly pressed uniform. He seems vile and loathsome–a larger than life evil capable of inflicting infinite damage on his loved ones–but his power is constructed of flimsy cards precariously stacked, the merest of breaths capable of sending his whole world crashing down, and we therefore find him to be worthy of both our hatred as well as our pity.

While the characters are stunningly depicted–the pain of their lives visceral and unforgettable–the story itself is a bit long and at times tedious. The abuse (a colorful variety including physical, emotional, and substance) is so intense in the beginning that when Leo and Audrey’s stories veer off into more mundane day to day activities including swim meets, random dinners, and eventually naval academy training for Leo, our attention starts to drift and we long for a return of what drew us initially. There are several smaller side elements that could have easily been culled in favor of, ironically, streamlining the abuse/murder mystery plotline to keep our attention glued to the pages, but overall, Ms. Lane impresses with her dark contemporary tale and I will certainly be looking for more of her in the future.

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