Bonnie's Reviews > The Whole Stupid Way We Are

The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin
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bookshelves: young-adult, ya-contemporary, 2013-books

This book was going to get 4 stars until the ending - which is a non-ending, entirely too ambiguous for my tastes. I understand it's a stylistic choice, but that doesn't have to make me happy about it.

Skint and Dinah are best friends united by their kookiness. This is a kind of slice-of-life book in which there are a lot of issues simmering in the background - an abused little boy the pair befriend, Skint's imploding home life (his dad has early-onset dementia, his mother is destroying herself and her family by trying to do everything herself and refusing all help out of shame and pride), and an antagonist in the form of a smug, self-righteous church volunteer that has it out for Skint & Dinah. But there's not much action or momentum and it kind of meanders around until the climax where it just gets all kinds of fractured and intense and oh my God that ending what the hell.

This is a weird, weird book. The dialogue and style felt oddly neo-noirish. It’s that same kind of staccato sentences and sideways talk of movies like Cosmopolis and the excellent Brick (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It also had the random passages that were all metaphor and no plot – for example, the old man (Walter?) and his dancing donkey. Besides establishing that Skint and Dinah are more than a little weird – and that’s clear from the rest of the book anyway – it serves no actual plot purposes. But there’s a lot of meaning there that I’m not even going to begin to interpret.

This book may be weird and slow in parts, but it has a lot of positives going for it. I really, really loved the scene where Dinah & Skint confront their nemesis about the fact that she passed out old fish to the poor last Christmas instead of the turkeys she was supposed to deliver from the church's food pantry. Because she’s such a smug bitch that she thinks unemployed people don’t deserve better and yet still thinks she’s holier-than-thou because she is a huge volunteer (which I think she does just to make her feel better about herself and to give herself more opportunities to look down on other people). That scene was intense and thrilling and all kinds of brilliant.

And I think the issue of Skint's family situation and Dinah's decision to tell someone else about it or not and the possible fallout from that is dramatic and powerful. That was, I think, the central drama of the book, but we were cheated of a resolution.

Which brings me to the ending. (view spoiler)
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
February 2, 2013 – Shelved
February 2, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
February 2, 2013 – Shelved as: ya-contemporary
February 7, 2013 – Shelved as: 2013-books

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