It may surprise you considering how good I’ve been at sticking to my schedule over the last few weeks but I’m actually pretty shit at keeping up to date with my blog. Over the last few months there have been fucking loads of books, films and TV shows that I’ve thought about writing about but neglected in favour of a nap. So I decided that the best way to deal with the backlog was to create a whole new format… new for this blog anyway. The day I have an original fucking idea for what to do here is going to be a day to celebrate. Basically, my general lazy nature is taking over and I’m writing the shortest reviews for these things as possible. I’ll spend a small amount of time doing them and you’ll learn nothing of any use… sounds fucking brilliant to me.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
This was one of my favourite books of 2014 and I desperately wanted to give it proper care and attention. However, I finished reading it during a particularly busy time at work and was too exhausted to collect my thoughts into a grammatical format. Everything I Never Told You follows the disappearance of a young girl and the effect it has on her family. Lydia is a gifted student who has the world at her feet and an enormous amount of pressure on her shoulders. When she goes missing her family starts to fall apart and secrets are revealed on all sides.
Celeste Ng’s debut novel is a gripping mystery but the real depth comes from her depiction of a family in the midst of a tragedy. Dealing with issues of race, identity and familial expectations, Ng’s novel is fucking beautiful. Her characters are so well defined and her prose it mesmerising at times. It doesn’t necessarily pack the punch of a traditional mystery but as a family-based drama it is damn near flawless.
Tampa – Alissa Nutting
If Frankenstein‘s subtitle is The Modern Prometheus then Tampa‘s is The Modern Lolita. Like Nabakov’s much loved classic, Nutting’s debut is written from the perspective of an adult describing their sexual attraction to young children. Tampa is narrated from the perspective of a female teacher who uses her position to groom her young students. Celeste is a calculating, shrewd and totally remorseless as she takes on the task of beginning sexual relationships with her 14 year old pupils.
I read a summary of Tampa online and I was fucking desperate to read it. I was interested to see how Nutting dealt with this unsavoury topic. I’m a massive fan of all of Nabokov’s writing so wanted to see how true all the comparisons to his most popular work really were. As it turns out, not very. Tampa is nowhere near as sophisticated as Lolita and is much more explicit. Whilst it possesses some of Nabokov’s mix of engrossing and disturbing writing, Nutting just doesn’t do anything that great with the material. Everything is fucking one dimensional and the novel is basically just a sequence of uncomfortable sex scenes between a child and their teacher. I’m all for exploring the dark recesses of human nature but I’d like it to have some substance behind it.
Before I read the novel, I saw a lot of book reviewers’ blogs and vlogs where they instantly hated the book because it deals with paedophilia. Despite how disappointed I was with the book I can’t help but think this a fairly childish attitude to have. Tampa shouldn’t be ignored because it tackles a taboo head-on. It should be ignored because it does it so fucking badly. Nabokov is an artist: Nutting blunders her way though the narrative with no hint of finesse. There was so much potential here. It’s fucking frustrating.
Beauty Queens – Libba Bray
I first read about this book on a list of feminist books every teenage girl should read. Now I’m all about trying to create a positive image of feminism for young women so thought I’d have a read. Beauty Queens is Lost meets Miss Congeniality. A group of beauty pageant contestants end up crashing on a desert island and must work together to survive their ordeal. As set-ups go it
had a 50/50 chance of being fucking brilliant or being the biggest load of shit I’d ever read.
Unfortunately, for Bray it was the latter. As someone who has had Lord of the Flies on my favourite ever books list since I studied it for my GCSEs, I wanted a similar exploration of the nature of humanity when there are no social rules to hold you back. What I got was a childish exploration of tired stereotypes and a feeble attempt to replace then with slightly less offensive stereotypes. There is nothing empowering about Bray’s representation of these girls either before or after they find themselves stranded. It has a pseudo-empowering message that girls who don’t really have time to think about what empowerment really is will lap up.
There is no real growth within this novel and, even if there was, everything just gets overpowered by Bray’s desperate attempt to make the novel funny. The endless parodies of modern culture wasn’t funny the first time the writer attempted it so by the 100th time I was ready to beat my fucking brains out. Bray seems to be the type of writer that people like me can’t help but associate with YA fiction. She seems to be writing for idiots: making stupid jokes and masking her real message under a load of sentimental guff so it really loses its potency. To be brutally honest, Beauty Queens offended me more than fucking Tampa did… and this one didn’t even include any kiddy sex.
Beyond the Pale Motel – Francesca Lia Block
I’m beginning to think that I’m too fucking susceptible. These days I’ll basically read anything that Huffington Post or Flavorwire tells me to. Beyond the Pale Motel was another one of those book who’s summary made it seem like the kind of book I’d love. Of course, following on from a familiar pattern, this wasn’t the case. Instead I was faced with a supposed crime thriller that was more focused on eroticism than thrilling crimes.
Catt has struggled with her sobriety for many years and, when her husband leaves her for a younger woman, she is left teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Things get worse when her neighbour is killed and she starts to feel afraid and paranoid. Despite the excitement that the tale of Catt and her hunt for the Hollywood Serial Killer may sound, there is fuck all to this novel.
I mean it’s a fucking tiny book and most of it involves Catt whining about being alone or having casual sex with any man who comes along. It didn’t even seem realistic that a women like Catt would even be that bothered by the news of a potential murderer running around but, yep, she starts to have a breakdown. Then, based on two previous murder victims, Catt starts to think that the killer is going to target her best friend Bree. What? After two fucking deaths she thinks she understands his fucking pattern?
Block doesn’t even try to give her story depth. The novel is rushed and the characters are all one-dimensional. It’s just one massive fucking cliché wrapped up in the least terrifying serial killer in literary history. Belong the Pale Motel is basically just an excuse for the YA writer to have a go talking about sex, drugs and murder. Remember when JK Rowling followed Harry Potter by writing the Casual Vacancy? Yeah, this is like that but shitter.