This book was the February selection for my book club, Books, Babes and Bordeaux. When I first settled in with this novel, I was sort of shocked and very bothered by its messages and the way that the author chose to portray them. Little did I know that each woman in the group would come away with much the same impression, and the meeting was definitely lively and full of spirit as we discussed the book and the ramifications it had upon us as we read. I think Sandy’s post sums it up very well. It wasn’t what I had been expecting, and for some reason, the whole book got my ire up. I listened to this book on audio, and its narrator, Hilary Huber, did an excellent job with it. Her vocal inflections were not only spot on but felt deliciously languid and imbued the audiobook with gravity.
First of all, I must admit that I disliked each and every character in this book and felt that they all had little to no redeeming qualities. Liz was a terrible mother whose insensitivity to her daughter came across as boredom and inattentiveness, which Huber did an excellent job of conveying. She was a woman who played favorites with her children, and it showed. I also thought that she showed tremendously bad judgement over and over again, and that her behavior was immature and self serving. Richard was obnoxious and came across as a man who cared little about his family but for the image that they projected to his business associates. When he stumbles home after a celebratory round of drinking after a new job offer, his irritating machismo and arrogance are on full display to his crumbling family. Jake is the only character who I had a modicum of respect for, though it’s clear to me that he was completely falling apart due to his parents’ mismanagement of the video crisis.
The messages that this book imparts were disturbing to me. Why does the mismanagement of a video made by a clearly disturbed girl seem to have the power to crumple a family? Why would Liz cop out and make some of the stunningly awful decisions that she made? I’d love to share them here with you but I’m trying to resist spoilers as much as I can. It was as if each of these characters was impacted by this situation and just slowly began to disintegrate from the inside out. There was no responsibility taken for their reactions to this drama, no one to tell them to get it together and make things sensible for the kids. It was almost as if they had been spinning in separate universes and when the drama came down, they began to collide with fruitless malignancy. Their lives just fell apart, and it was ugly.
Another problem that I had was the very graphic nature of some of the narrative. It’s not enough that a young girl made a sex tape, it had to be dissected and described in thinly veiled innuendo that made my stomach sick. In fact, this is how the book opens, so I had already formed a pretty unappetizing opinion of it even before it got to its major plot points. The video continues to have shocking repercussions and it is played upon over and over again, leaving the reader to suffer through the sordid mental visuals of what this young girl did on camera. While I was reading this, I felt very uncomfortable in my skin. As a mother of two teenage kids, I felt that the descriptions and plot tendrils that floated away from this event were not only done in bad taste but it seemed as if it was meant to be titillating. This wasn’t what I had been expecting and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
This book wasn’t to my liking at all, and I think that although it succeeded in being relevant, a lot of it just made me angry. It’s hard to say what I would have thought about this book if I didn’t have teenagers on the cusp of adulthood here at home with me, but I can’t imagine that this would ever be a favorite of mine. While the book managed to be sordid, it didn’t capture my interest in any positive way at all, and I can’t say that I was pleased to have read it.