Kassa's Reviews > The Mariposa Club

The Mariposa Club by Rigoberto González
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3.5 stars

Mariposa Club is a decent coming of age story that has engaging characters and a youthful appeal. The situations and especially the cast are all exaggerations. They’re extreme depictions of tropes and themes surrounding gay teens. There is the flaming overweight queen, the fierce cross dresser, token white boy with a big dick, and the very sensitive, thoughtful Mexican narrator. None of the characters particularly grow or mature over the course of the story even though the plot is heavily character driven. Instead the story is more an anthem for young gay teens of any type, involving characters and situations that they can emphasize and sympathize with.

The narration revolves around four young men in their senior year of high school. They’re clearly the gay outcasts and they congregate around an outdoor planter commiserating and supporting each other. The fierce foursome decides to start a club – the Mariposa Club – at their high school so they can leave a lasting impression in the year book. They want a legacy, however tenuous, that they existed and survived high school. Yet life is never that easy and each member of the club will experience significant change.

The story is heavily character dependant as the first person narrator, Maui, describes his friends and the events that happen around them. There is very little bullying that goes on and only a subtle undercurrent of disapproval and disdain that comes across in occasional whispered comments. This slowly builds up as Maui becomes more aware of it and culminates in a violent scene towards the end of the novel. Instead this is more about the self awareness and acceptance issues young gay teenagers experience.

The four cast members are exaggerations and stereotypes. They’re obvious, totally without nuance or subtly but that’s the point. They’re meant to convey these outrageous personalities and give acceptance with frustration. Maui finds his friends alternatively annoying and wonderful as the self centered nature of teenagers only can. Maui is meant to be the most sensitive and caring of the group; he’s the narrator and the one yearning for freedom but scared of it at the same time. He frequently lashes out quite cruelly against his friends but never really owns his actions nor understands what motivates his harsh words. Instead he seems to drift along and only the help and guidance of others gives him direction.

That’s not to say Maui is not a sympathetic narrator because he is. He’s engaging with a voice and maturity that vacillates between incredibly insightful and very young. His interactions with the other three members of his group show different sides of his personality. He becomes bitchy girlfriends with the fierce cross dressing Trini, the underachieving academic with the brilliant but gothic overweight flaming queen in Lib, and the yearning, first crush with token white boy Isaac. Each of these stereotypes offers something different to the story just as the range in parents offers something as well. Part of the story is to show the diversity in the good, bad, and in between reactions.

The real strength of the story comes from the vulnerability in the characters. They may be exaggerated and obvious but their range of emotions comes through. The best scenes are when one of the characters feels insecure or upset and they show hints of fear behind the teenage façade. Each of the young men adopts an outward persona to get through high school, an attitude that is still true to their personality but also hides any fear, hurt, insecurity, and weakness. When that façade cracks, the most engaging and interesting actions take place. These scenes draw you into the story, make you care about these teenagers and want a happy ending.

Although each of the young men from the club – which never gets started ironically – does change by the end of the novel, these changes range from geographical to cosmetic but not necessarily emotional or maturity. The fierce foursome has more growing up to do but this is the kind of story that would appeal to teens looking for characters they can empathize and sympathize with. A story that makes you laugh and appreciate the diversity of people, cultures, and life.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 4, 2011 – Shelved

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