Thursday 4 November 2010

Of All the Stupid Things Review

Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz is a book that teased me with its tagline: “Three friends, one forbidden love affair”. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this premise but I got something a little different than I had imagined. Because I’m having difficulty actually putting into my own words what this book is about, I’m going to use the Goodreads description:

“It really was a stupid thing that Brent Staple did – doing it (so the rumour goes) with Chris Sanchez, one of the guy cheerleaders. Who’d have thought that Brent, the school’s hottest jock, could be gay? But the doubt about Brent doesn’t just hurt Tara – it’s the beginning of the end for an inseparable trio of friends. Tara’s training for the marathon, but also running from her father and her fear of ever being abandoned again. Beautiful Whitney Blaire’s got everything and nothing, because her parents have never had time for her. And Pinkie has a compulsive need to mother everyone to make up for the mom she never stops missing. The girls couldn’t be more different, but doesn’t that just prove the strength of their friendship?

Then new-girl Riley arrives in school, wafting her long black hair and a scent of lilacs. Suddenly, Tara starts to feel things she’s never felt before for a girl - and to reassess her feelings about Brent and what he may/may not have done. Is Tara gay – or does she just love Riley? And can the map of her deepest friendships ever be redrawn in a post-Riley world?”

The beginning opens up with an incident that seems to set the course for the rest of the book. I'm not sure you could call it a shocking incident, more unexpected I think. This incident has a direct effect on one of the main protagonists and an indirect effect on her friendship with two other girls. The problem I haved with this is that I didn’t care enough about the characters at this stage. As I read on, I began to learn about the characters, to understand the motivations behind their actions and towards the end of the book, I felt the story had improved but it was too little too late for me.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. That’s how I feel about all of the books I read. I go in with an open mind and give them all a fair and equal chance. I don’t have any sort of rule that says if I don’t like a book within the first so many pages or so many chapters then I give up. I’m not the giving up sort of person. And so even though I did not love this book, I carried on reading until the end. I think this is a testament to Alexandra’s writing that I wanted to carry on.

One of the things I did like was the exploration of sexuality as I’ve not read a book that addresses this before. Not for any reason, I’ve just not picked one up yet. I thought that Alexandra captured the voice of a teenage girl exploring her sexuality perfectly. I enjoyed reading about how Tara was discovering all of these new feelings she had about Riley but couldn’t really explain them. One line that particularly stood out for me was when Tara talked about being the sort of girl that fell in love with a person rather than a gender.

This was definitely a character driven novel as there was no real plot to speak of, at least not in my eyes and that was where I thought the book was lacking. It started right in the middle of things and ended right in the middle of things. It was like a snapshot into three friend’s lives with no real beginning and no end. I realise that this may have been intentional and for all I know, I completely missed the point. Perhaps I am the sort of person that prefers an intricate plot as well as interesting characters?

That’s not to say there wasn’t at least a sense of a conclusion. There was a point towards the end of the novel where I saw some growth in at least one of the characters which was Pinkie. I really enjoyed how she developed throughout the novel, how she learned from her mistakes and grew up a little. I think Pinkie was probably my favourite character although she didn’t start out like that.

So you see, if I hadn’t have finished reading the book, I would never have known that. I had no problem with Alexandra’s writing and I even enjoyed some of the scenes, two in particular spring to mind but I can’t tell you about them for fear of ruining the story should you wish to read the book. Overall, I think this book wasn’t for me but I gave it a chance. As always, it’s just my opinion and I would never tell anyone not to pick up a book because someone gave it a less than favourable review. You have your own mind so don’t be afraid to try things before making your decision as to whether you like it or not.

Of All the Stupid Things was released in December, 2009. Thank you to International Book Tours for letting me read and review this book. To find out more about Alexandra Diaz and her books, you can visit her website here. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

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