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A Reader of Fictions: Summer Song - Carbon Leaf

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Summer Song - Carbon Leaf

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

Author: Julie Schumacher
Pages: 227
ARC Acquired from: Delacorte Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
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 cancelling 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.

First Sentence: "Thesis Statement: Book clubs can kill you."

The opening chapters of this book really appealed to me, and, though I enjoyed the book as a whole, it definitely flagged as the book progressed. This is probably the least effectual book club ever that actually manages to meet up (my friends and I haven't even managed that yet...wah wah). Even so, every mention of a book club makes me desperately want to discuss literature in person. I loved the sections where they actually discussed the books, but these were unfortunately brief.

The main issue this book had was the plotting. The ending was pretty obvious from the opening. In an attempt to create suspense, and to have a dramatic opening to the story, the ending is spoiled. Well, it might surprise some, but I definitely saw it coming. I just found it hard to care about most of the lead up.

The characters also had some serious issues. The only one who felt full-fleshed was Adrienne, the main character, but I'll discuss her more momentarily. Cee-Cee never really comes off as anything more than a bored popular girl, messing with people for her own amusement. Jill, who I actually like most perhaps, never really gets any focus and is dismissed as boring. Wallis is WEIRD. I kept expecting to learn what her deal was, and, in fact, I'm pretty sure I KNOW what was up with her and her mom, but we're never actually told. In fact, what's so weird about all of this is that none of the characters ever stop being their stereotype. At the end of the summer, they're all still the same people they were, even, perhaps, Adrienne.

The book's saving grace, besides the literary references, was Adrienne's character. Adrienne has her flaws, a boatload of them. However, she did feel real to me, largely because a lot of her thoughts are totally on my wavelength. For example, she often thinks like this:
"Teachers often referred to me as a student with 'a lot of potential.' This meant they expected me to be smart; but in fact my mind was often packing a mental suitcase and wandering off on its own. I sometimes pictured all the things I had learned during the previous week at school jumping into brightly painted railroad cars and disappearing into the distance on a speeding train." (6)
I always personify things, and laughed to see someone else having the same thoughts about the elusiveness of all the knowledge entering the brain. She also struggles with identity. She feels as though she has no discernible personality and that no one would even care if she died. I definitely felt that way too, so I could identify with that. Her responses to this feeling, which mostly involved doing really stupid things for Cee-Cees benefit, I didn't approve of, but did seem rather possible. People will do any number of idiotic things for attention in hopes of being liked.

The other part that I really enjoyed was whenever Adrienne was reading. I wish I could read like this girl, although I certainly would not be able to read anywhere near the volume of books I currently read. She seems to be pushing it to get through two books a month. However, when she reads, she really gets into the story. She dreams the story. She gets so deep down into it that she cannot hear people talking to her. I so wish I had that focus. It was amazing how you could feel her slipping into another world. That part was awesome writing.

All told, this was a really great idea, and I feel like it could have been a fantastic book. I feel like with a bit more work, like more details on Wallis' situation and Adrienne's dad, along with more book talk, this could have been a darker, young adult version of The Jane Austen Book Club. As it is, it's a pleasant enough read, but just does not quite make it.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "Boredom is why God invented books."

"Soak the sun
What went wrong
Summer Song

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