TEEN LIBRARIAN’S REVIEW:
I know, it looks like I’ve been slacking on the reading. In my defense, it took me a while to work my way through Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” an epic tale of time travel, fate, and the Kennedy assassination. (Short review: IT’S AWESOME! Please read it.) But I’m back in the teen novel game, having just finished the e-galley of Julie Schumacher’s forthcoming “The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.” Thanks to the folks at Random House for making the galley available, and to the good people at Net Galley for making it so easy and accessible to read advanced copies. You guys rock!
“The Unbearable Book Club …” is pretty standard chick lit about four very different high school girls thrown together — unwillingly, of course — for a mother / daughter summer reading book club. Average, plain Adrienne narrates this novel in the form of her completed AP English summer assignment. She recounts how the book club’s readings (“The Yellow Wallpaper,” “Frankenstein,” “The Left Hand of Darkness,” “The House on Mango Street,” and “The Awakening”); her burgeoning friendships with the other girls (popular wild child Cee Cee, weird nerd Wallis, and over achiever Jill); and her relationship with her single mom changed her over the course of the summer. Or, as Adrienne says at the beginning of her essay, “Whoever I was at the beginning of the summer, I am not that person anymore.”
Adrienne suffered a knee injury prior to the summer, forcing her to cancel a months-long adventure camp with her best friend, Liz. Instead of hiking and canoeing with Liz, Adrienne is at the community pool, listlessly reading her assigned novels, when Cee Cee literally barges into her life. Cee Cee, home because of summer school and lonely because her friends are all off on glamorous vacations, begins to hang out with Adrienne. Cee Cee, with her big personality and refusal to accept “no” for an answer, brings “A” out of her reserved shell, while also finding all sorts of ways to get her in trouble (late-night sneak outs, car theft, drinking, questionable ear piercing). Jill, who works the snack shack at the pool and studies constantly, questions both Cee Cee’s motives and Adrienne’s acquiescence to Cee’s every demand. Meanwhile, eccentric Wallis, a true outsider in every sense of the word, remains a mystery to the girls, always making excuses for where she lives and why her mother cannot attend meetings.
And so the summer progresses. Books are read, quoted, and discussed. Friendships are forged and threatened. Lessons are learned, amidst both tragedy and triumph. Hot dogs are cooked over an open flame. Yeah, it’s all pretty unremarkable, with the occasional quirky bit of humor or interesting insight tossed in just when things are becoming too predictable. Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with “The Unbearable Book Club …” It has enough heart and humor to carry it past the woefully generic voice of its narrator and the stock characterizations. (The three new friends are utter stereotypes; I mean, seriously, an overachieving Asian-American and a fickle popular girl with a secret? Welcome to Teen Lit 101). “The Unbearable Book Club” is fine and summery and engaging enough overall. I’d recommend it as breezy chick lit for high school girls, as the content — some language, a drunken escapade — edges this one toward an older audience. I just wanted this book, which has so much potential to be truly captivating, to be more than a cheap knockoff of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “Peaches” series.