TIme reading: 2.5 hours
Total time spent reading and blogging for the 48 Hour Reading Challenge so far: 13.5 hours
Since I bailed on the last two books I tried last night, I felt some internal pressure to actually finish this one. It took some self-discipline to do so since I already knew what would happen from the very beginning.
As bibliotherapy for teenage girls caught in an abusive relationship, I think it would work, although I’m no psychologist. As a stand-alone story, it’s cliched and predictable. Johanna is the smart girl, straight A’s, never had a real boyfriend, perfectionist with perfectionist parents. Paul is the class clown, starving for attention, abandoned by his deadbeat alcoholic father and ignored by his overly-religious mother. The two get together out of need and stay together out of need. Johanna needs someone to help her rebel against her controlling parents and tell her that she is pretty and loved. Paul needs sex, a girlfriend who will make excuses for his lack of self-control, and a target for his anger.
As I said, the book is one big cliched parable: This Is What Happens In Abusive Relationships, Beware! Although in one sense I found the characters of Johanna and Paul to be believable because, yeah, this sort of relationship happens all the time, in another way, the details just didn’t work. Paul is headed for Stanford, but his mother tells him they don’t have enough money for him to go there. They live in a trailer park, but Paul acts as if he’s never thought about the lack of money to pay for an education at Stanford in spite of their obvious poverty. Then, it turns out that one of Paul’s friends thinks Paul could have saved enough money for Stanford from his part-time job, and he’s really just afraid to face the real world. Does this author know how much it costs to go to Stanford? Or to the Bible college that Paul’s mother offers as an alternative?
That’s just one minor example. In an interview in the back of the book, the author says he wants to write about working class teens because “these kids need a voice.” He should get to know a few more of those working class teens who also don’t have the money to go to a private school across the country for their post-high school education. Also I don’t believe that Christianity is a substitute for alcohol or any other addiction, but Mr. Jones obviously does. From his interview: “Paul’s mother had to be someone who was totally absent, and rather than have her be consumed by alcohol, I gave her religion.” Yes, Mr. Marx, religion is the opiate of the people.
Not my favorite YA novel, but as I said, perhaps it would be useful as a handout in a youth counseling center.