Friday, December 7, 2012

ReviewMeTwice: The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls- Julie Schumacher

I always seem to like books that, while reading them, I know are going to fall onto the banned books list.  If this one isn't already on the list, you can be certain it will be.  It talks about sex and drugs and smoking and sneaking out of the house and all the fun things you're really not supposed to do as a teen but inevitably do anyway.

Adrienne is stuck home all summer, due to a bum knee, and her mother forces her into a mother-daughter book club with a group of girls that she doesn't really know.  Jill, CeeCee and Willis are all forced to come to, starting on this book club they all come to regret a little.

My favorite part of this book?  The inordinate amount of book references.  You get at least one a chapter and I just adored it.  It's what I like to call a "smart book."  You have to be well read to get a lot of the references and I love books that do that.  It could essentially be entirely different experiences based on how many books you've read.

I also liked that, by the end of the book, there are still a ton of questions.  I thought that this book was going to be really predictable, but it surprised me by... not being that way.  There were things that happened that I didn't see coming at all and other things that I expected and didn't happen.  Usually, I hate unanswered questions but this was not the case.

I loved that it was four, independent girls, trying to figure themselves out.  They stood up to parents, snuck out of houses and generally were up to no good.  I love that some of the girls are good, but end up pushing boundaries and others kind of toned it down.  

The only thing I didn't like (which, is really minor) is that Adrienne has a busted knee and still does all this stuff she just... wouldn't.  She climbs things, walks for miles and all that happens is that it gets a little inflamed.  Take it from someone who has had broken bones: even when the cast is off, things like walking hurts.  So I couldn't see her walking so much.  It really bugged me.

I really recommend this to high-school aged girls.  It's a great book and interesting and the characters are really relatable.

My Bottom Line 4 out of 5

When I finish reading a book and announce that I am done with it, and someone asks me "so, how was it?" and I say "I don't know," that is a bad sign.

Good: Realistic characters.
Bad: Overly realistic characters.
By "realistic characters," I mean characters with believable characteristics who behave in a way you might expect a real person to behave when put into the situations that character faces. By "overly realistic characters," I mean characters who are just as bland and boring and predictable as a person in real life. Book characters are meant to be held to a higher standard of "being interesting" than real-life people. Adrienne (our protagonist, if you can call her that) admits and laments in the first chapter that she is boring and has no real characteristics. Awesome! Tabula rasa! Let's have a coming-of-age story wherein she learns all about herself through the catalyst of the book club and the bonds she forms throughout the- Wait, at the end, she's still the same bland person who happened to do some uncharacteristic things over the summer? Never mind.

Good: Realistic depictions of relationships.
Bad: Putting them next to awful ones.
I love the relationship between Adrienne and her mother in this book. It's the most realistic depiction I've ever read of a mother-daughter relationship. They neither gush over each other like sappy models of the ideal parent-child pair, nor do they despise one another with all the bile of a thousand angry honey badgers. They get along pretty well, but not all the time. They argue and pick at each other, but not all the time. They keep secrets from each other, but not all the time. Then you put that next to relationships like the dominating CeeCee controlling the submissive Adrienne all summer, or anyone talking to Wallis, the social pariah of the group. It's confusing and I don't know what else to say about it, but I needed to bring it up.

Good: Fairly ambiguous endings
Bad: Very ambiguous endings
I adore the type of ending where you aren't sure exactly what happened. I live for unanswered questions at the end of a great book. (If you aren't sure what I mean, think of Inception.) But this book answered nothing. Absolutely nothing. I would cite examples and apologize for spoilers, but they wouldn't be spoilers because there's nothing to spoil. There is one big thing near the end, and it might be sort of a surprise if you aren't too keen on thinking critically while you read, but I guessed it, and I bet Cassy did, too. (She's good at those things.) So if you like closure or answers, don't get hooked on this one. You will be sorely disappointed.

As disappointed as I was in this book, I don't like putting it down so much, so shortly after NaNoWriMo. I know how much work goes into creating a book, and that it is hard to put one's work out there for everyone to see and judge. So I'll end with the two things I liked unabashedly, the goods without bads to counter them:

Good: Clever chapter gimmicks
I really liked this. Each chapter starts with Adrienne's definition of a literary term, which has to do with what's going on in that chapter. The chapter that defines "dialogue" is full of dialogue (more so than the other chapters). It's clever, and I love it.

Also good: Book references
I like when an author can weave other, well-known books into their own stories. I especially like it when I don't have to have read the other books in order to get it. I've read The Yellow Wallpaper and The House on Mango Street, so I knew exactly what Adrienne was talking about when she referred to them. However, I haven't read The Left Hand of Darkness but I still understood the references because they were well-explained and integrated. (Also, I really want to read it now. That's a very good sign.)

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