The most popular guy at his high school, 17-year-old Parker Rabinowitz is wealthy, smart, and drop-dead handsome. He's a sure thing for YHP (Yale, Harvard, or Princeton) according to his college consultant, whom Parker has worked with since he was 14. Parker's got just one problem: he's bulimic.
Nothing is presented in two distinct first-person voices — those of Parker and his 14-year-old sister, Danielle. Parker tells his side of the story in present-tense narrative, which becomes progressively more stripped down as he's consumed by the disorder. Danielle tells her side of the story in free verse. Danielle, who is barely even acknowledged by their achievement-obsessed parents, is known in school as "Parker's sister." Despite all this, Danielle loves her brother. And she's the only one who seems to notice what's happening behind Parker's perfect-seeming exterior, as he disappears into a world of deception and desperation.
Complex and realistic, this novel's ultimate message is one of hope. (No, actually, it's not.)
ARC. Book gets released on August 1st, 2008.
Grade: That's an F, simple as.
Note: Because precious time was lost reading this, and because this book's message is so undeniably wrong wrong wrong, and because this book pissed me off immeasurably, it just inspired a new snarky category here on the blog: Reviewer X Goes All X.
The only reason I even bothered finishing this is because I have to review it for Book Divas. Had that not been the case, well, I can pretty much guarantee you I'd have stopped reading this after the first ten pages. If I even made it to that.
Let's start with the main character, Parker, who was so groundbreakingly annoying and one dimensional, I couldn't figure out how anyone in their right mind could bear write about him, much less work consistently with him until the book was accepted for publication, and much less have someone else agree to publish a story about him. Here's this supposedly hot, rah-rah high school god who has a self-esteem the size of an ant. I can understand how this might come to be, what with his disgustingly obsessive father, but Parker is so whiny and pathetic throughout the entire book, I couldn't bring myself to care about his nonexistent self-worth. My only question is, how is this weenie so popular? He asks himself the same thing, so I think that's a valid point to raise. Incidentally, he suffers from bulimia, which I guess is supposed to make the reader feel sympathetic toward him and his needy introspections. However, his bulimia is completely unfounded, based on an passing comment his father made about appearances that Parker somehow spun to a personal level. Personally, I thought his entire transformation from repressed-and-stressed high school senior to OMG-obsessed/possessed troubled child was forced and contrived and entirely gratuitous. A plot device, if you will.
Despite his low, low self-esteem and identity crisis, Parker is actively hooking up with girls at parties, most notably with a girl named Julianne, who is, oh sweet god, yet another weenie added to the cast. The story behind them is that in the previous year, when Parker was a junior, he told his friend Spaz that he thought a girl named Amber was really hot. Like the good friend Spaz is, Spaz went ahead and hooked up with Amber, leaving Parker fuming. So Parker goes and starts hooking up with Julianne because she's got the hots for him and because she's also "incredibly hot". They hook up and they hook up and they hook up some more until Julianne starts getting the hint that she's being used and demands more commitment from him. He dodges her requests because he's "afraid" of something; what the object of his fear is, is never explained, which just adds to the overall exhausting enigma that is Parker's character. Really, he just still had the hots for Amber. Finally, she throws him an ultimatum and, put on the spot, Parker drops the L-bomb on her. That's right, he tells her he loves her. By this time, I was rolling my eyes quite ostentatiously. You won't see me using many acronyms in my reviews, but WTF?
This would be the time to add in here that Julianne's confrontation is the only time in the entire novel she shows any hint of a backbone. In fact, the entire female population inside this novel, with the exception of Danielle, Parker's sister, is thoroughly objectified through Parker's perspective. Need proof? Amber, the forbidden-fruit foxtress, is second-ranked in their class (Parker's first, naturally) and when it's looking like she'll kick him out of first place, Parker honest-to-goodness says, and I quote, "Amber should focus less on being smart and more on being a babe". I won't even comment on this one, so disturbing is it to me.
Moving on: Now we've got relationship Julianne-and-Parker, which means that the once somewhat self-respecting Julianne is reduced to a whiny girl who lingers on to Parker's every word and action. Parker snaps at her? She's "misting her eyes". Parker is being loving and caring and a huggable pooh-bear? She wraps her legs around him and makes out with him in the middle of the halls. Soon she becomes his "only reason for living". Never mind that he's still lusting after Amber and that the only real development in their relationship were a couple of hot 'n' heavy make out sessions. This is clearly a case of true love.
Just when this book couldn't get any more ridiculous, a family member finds out they have cancer. Breast cancer, to be exact. Of course, it couldn't possibly be the mom, as that would be too conventional for this novel's reliance on the inconceivable. No, it's the dad. All of this acts as a catalyst to the deteriorating family, which is what I can only assume a plot twist to add to the sob-fest that is these folks' lives. This obvious plot device was the last straw, the last flush this novel could possibly take before all-out tanking. It read like a cheap shot, a bad joke, and a lame gimmick.
And finally, the ending, which I gather was supposed to give the hope promised in the summary, fell through. It read like a brochure on the consequences of bulimia. No real feeling, no heart, just nothing. (Ironically, that's the name of the novel. Fitting.) Just no.
The only positive thing in this entire book is Danielle, Parker's sister. She's the shadowed-by-older-sibling girl, though I really don't understand why, as she is heaps more interesting than Parker could ever be. Still, the deliverance of Danielle's voice was botched: it was told in free verse for no apparent reason. Even if I had to plow through the eyesore that was presentation of her side of the story, I found her to be a highly respectable and relatable character, which is 10000% more than I could say for any other being present in this novel. I only hope that the remainder of the time she spends in that household before college doesn't taint her.
In conclusion: Stay far away from this book. I can't imagine the disappointment guys who have bulimia will feel after reading this. They don't need a whiny rich kid bemoaning his miserable predicament--they need a genuine narrator. They need a book whose heart is not a tragedy trifecta of minorities only placed therein to make a statement. Frankly, what they need is exactly the opposite than what this book delivered.
To think this book will get targeted at bulimic boys is the epitome of offense; it's offensive to the readership and it's offensive to me.
Monday, May 26, 2008