Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review: The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher

*book cover photo courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls  
Author:  Julie Schumacher
Genre:  Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Imprint:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format:  NetGalley Digitial Galley
Release Date:  May 8, 2012

I’m Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn’t want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer with my knee in a brace. CeeCee’s parents forced her to join after canceling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of “The Unbearable Book Club,” CeeCee, Jill, Wallis and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren’t friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I’ll turn in when I go back to school (Summary courtesy NetGalley).

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is written in the form of a creative essay for an A.P. English class. Adrienne Haus is summarizing the reading list and therefore her summer, for her teacher.  Each chapter begins with the definition of a literary term, but not the type of definition you would expect. Instead the definitions are snarky and witty, for example: “subplot—This is sort of like the plot’s younger brother, the one who tags along behind the big kids who are hogging all the toys and having most of the fun. But mostly it means a less important plot” (location 720, subject to change). These were actually my favorite part of the book.

I thought that a book about forcing four girls with nothing in common into a book club for the summer would be really fun to read. It started off great; at first I felt a connection to Adrienne because she had no father, loved to read and really had only one friend (who was gone for the summer). Unfortunately, a few chapters in, that connection was gone. I thought the premise of the book was interesting and I felt it had a lot of potential. But the book really ended up fizzling for me and I found myself struggling to get through it.

I didn’t think that the characters connected in the way the author wanted us to believe. CeeCee, your quintessential popular girl, latched onto Adrienne immediately. But CeeCee opting to spend time with Adrienne outside of the book club seemed very unrealistic. They have absolutely nothing in common aside from their forced participation in the book club. And Adrienne accepting CeeCee friendship also seemed farfetched. I’m not sure anyone would put up with a “friend” who rifles through her stuff and frequently insults her. As a matter of fact, none of the girls really seemed to get along. Jill doesn’t trust CeeCee and Wallis doesn’t trust anyone. The mothers even seemed to dislike each other. I just couldn’t connect with the characters as the book progressed because the characters couldn’t connect.

The synopsis of the book suggests that a great deal of it takes place at the pool. Ummm, yeah, not so much. In reality, I think that the girls were at the pool maybe three or four times. And one of those times was the climax of the story. I felt like the pool was supposed to have some kind of great significance to the story, but because so little time was actually spent there, it was lost on me. Adrienne spent more time at home than she did at the pool. 

While I appreciate the use of imagery in a story, sometimes an author can go overboard. Schumacher really loves her metaphors and similes, so much so that she uses anywhere from three to four per paragraph. It really got old after awhile. Sometimes it’s ok to describe something without comparing it to something else. Or leave it out entirely. I really didn’t need to know that the scouring pad was “like a slimy, silver wig for fish” used to scrub the “islands of burned rice” (location 1887, subject to change). I don’t think the reader should notice the imagery; it should be so seamlessly interwoven into the story that its use doesn’t affect the reader at all. I might have been more appreciative of the imagery if it had not been extremely overused. I started to feel as if the author was trying to write the “next great literary masterpiece” in young adult form. She was just trying too hard. 

I can’t say I enjoyed The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls. It was readable, but certainly not something I would read again or recommend, especially to my pickier readers. It’s just not interesting enough.

My grade for The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher:

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