Thursday, 7 February 2013

Review: Undone by Cat Clarke

In One Line:  a hot mess of intense Feels, with a touch of the Mean Girls.

Genre: high school melodrama

The Gist:

The premise of this book is beautifully simple: girl loves best friend, best friend is gay, best friend kills himself, girl gets revenge. I’m so jealous of this concept that I can’t even tell you. Not only do we get our narrator, Jem, infiltrating the school’s popular crowd in pure Mean Girls fashion, we also get to read her best friend Kai’s heartbreaking letters, paced throughout the novel, written to Jem just before he committed suicide. 

The Cover:

This is a cover that promises heartache, and this is a book that won’t disappoint! My only concern is the model they used - Jem’s true self is an emo/goth type, but yes she does go blonde as per the instruction in one of Kai’s letters. And whilst it’s blonde Jem that takes up the majority of the novel, by the time we reach the end (which is I suspect the part of the book that this cover illustrates) Jem has gone back to her roots, as it were. It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with the cover, it’s just that I think that the book’s narrator might have a problem with it. 

Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Pure feels. Prepare to be punched in the stomach people. You’ll want to have something light and fluffy ready to read for afters!
  • I feel that Jem is a real person. In fact I feel that all the characters in this novel are real people. I could see so many people I knew in this, to the extent that it rather creeped me out! But it’s Jem’s flaws in particular that I loved. To be able to write a character so flawed, and yet so relateable is a real achievement. One that I’m not jealous of at all. No siree. Not jealous.
  • From experience, I know that writing groups of people is really difficult. It’s a bit like juggling, with all the balls in the air at the same time. Well, I think Cat Clarke juggles really well. I think maybe in reality a group of popular kids would have been a bit bigger than the one depicted here, but if there were any more characters to write about the juggling would have been significantly more difficult! 
  • Realistic teen sexytimes! Ok maybe I thought that perhaps Jem took her bra off a little  too quickly, and when she first gets together with Lucas she does something and my first reaction was “how would she even know how to do that?” But otherwise the sexytimes in this novel are pretty much spot on. And they don’t feel at all gratuitous, which is saying something because they are really quite graphic. 
Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • Kai’s letters are a wonderful way to pace this novel. Twelve letters, one to be opened each month, means that we get the span of a year in which to watch Jem unravel. It’s a clever idea, I just wish that the letters would tell us more. I’m not sure of what exactly, but I couldn’t help but feel let down by some of the content, particularly the last few letters. I can’t remember which one it is, but there was one letter in particular that made me go “really? Is that it?!”
  • I think that if you’re of a particularly sensitive nature, you might want to leave this book alone. It’s not for the fragile-minded. 
  • There are a few lost characters, particularly the few that sit on the periphery of the main focus of the novel. I know that’s a bit the fault of the narrator, who is very single-minded, but I did find myself thinking about the other kids that are mentioned and then forgotten, like Bland Boy and Bland Girl, or Jasmine. What happened to them?
  • There is a certain sense of predictability. In fact I did guess one of the twists very early on, despite usually being quite bad at guessing these type of things. However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, even thinking I knew exactly what was happening did not prepare me for the shocker of the ending. 
The Hypersomnia Test:

Passed with gorgeous, glittery, rainbow flying colours! I’m telling you no lies when I say I couldn’t put this book down, in fact I read the entire second half in one sitting. No sleepy times here!

Final Verdict:

I’ve been reading a lot of grown-up literary fiction lately, so it was initially a bit weird to go back to YA storytelling, which is quite blatant and unsubtle. But once I got into the flow and accepted that this was not a convoluted, high-brow effort, I really enjoyed this. It’s simple storytelling, done really, really well. Jem is such a believable character, and even though the story features quite drastic events, I never felt that it was forced or unrealistic. Also, the ending. Obviously not going to spoil anything for you, but I haven’t experienced a suckerpunch like that in quite some time. Be prepared! I haven’t read any of Clarke’s other novels, but I really want to now. I just can’t believe how jealous I am of her skill and her frankly quite devious mind!

Further Reading:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

No comments:

Post a Comment