Ciara's Reviews > The Disenchantments

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
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Sep 13, 12

bookshelves: kids-books, read-in-2012
Read in September, 2012

i had a tough time with this book. i know it's YA, but there were like no stakes whatsoever. it's told from the perspective of a teenage boy named colby. he is best friends with bev, who heads up an all-girl rock band called the disenchantments. colby, bev, & another member of the band just graduated from their fancypants san francisco art high school & have decided to take the band on tour before everyone scatters to pursue their post-graduation plans. one girl still has another year of high school left. another is moving to portland to attend lewis & clark college. colby & bev have plans to travel together in europe...or so colby thinks. their first day on the road, bev confesses that she secretly applied to RISD & was accepted. she has decided to go to college instead of europe, leaving colby kind of high & dry on the whole "what i did with my summer vacation" front.

& need i even explain the obvious, which is that colby has a raging crush on bev & had this whole fantasy going where they totally get together while traveling in europe together? so her ditching out to go to college isn't just about europe. it's also about his boners. & frankly, i HATED reading this dude's bizarre sense of entitlement when it comes to his crush on his best friend. he acts so fucking betrayed, which i guess is a reasonably accurate depiction of annoying teenage behavior, but it was still just awful to read.

he decides to continue with the tour anyway, & in between pretty typical scenes of crappy basement shows, the only real "tension" comes from the big question of whether colby & bev will get together or not. anyone who has ever read a book before already knows the answer to this question. i mean, if they don't, why the hell would the book even exist? there's also some kind of lame plotline about how they swing by a tattoo studio & find a photo of colby's dad's old band's record cover tattooed on someone's back, which sets them off on a scavenger hunt to track down the tattooed guy & get an explanation as to why he has this obscure band tattoo. & this eventually leads to colby meeting up with some famous graffiti artist he admires a lot & being encouraged to pursue his dreams, which involve a) banging bev, & b) going to europe without her. he also discovers that bev's home life isn't so awesome, & neither is his own, which was apparently a major newsflash even though you'd think he might have caught on when his mom moved to france.

aside from the stupidity & precious "individuality" of each of the characters (one of them paints peace signs on her hands & wears a headband with bells on it--like you wouldn't want to rip it off her & throw it out the van window after thirty seconds; another runs out & gets a spur of the moment chest tattoo on the second day of tour to commemorate how awesome tour is), there's also tons of stuff about how the band really sucks but they make up for it by being sexy girls. i read an interview with the author in which she was asked why she chose to make the band kind of shitty. she was like, "i just wanted to underscore the fact that this wasn't a serious band that was going to try to make it big; it's just friends having fun for the summer before they pursue their real lives." fair enough & everything, by why so much focus on the girls' looks? it was like reading everything i hate about all "women in rock" books ever, fictionalized & presented as if it was in any way a positive thing. every time the girls play a show, the audience is described as being initially stunned by how sucky they are, & then forgiving because the girls are all so pretty & sexy. that is GROSS & anti-feminist. ugh, i hated it. i don't know what the hell i would do if my teenage daughter was reading something like this & absorbing the message that it's totally acceptable to suck at what you do as long as you're cute while you're doing it. yuck yuck yuck. & the author drops a lot of little hints & bits about riot grrrl, name-dropping bands like sleater-kinney (which technically didn't start until riot grrrl was in its death throes, but whatever), but apparently she didn't absorb some of riot grrrl's more overt messages about musicianship, such as "don't need you to say we're cute". i came away from this book feeling surprised that it was written by a woman. one thing i will say: she did a bang up job capturing everything that is fucking unbearable about the male narrative voice. i just don't really think that's a good thing.
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