Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Andrea Portes: Anatomy Of A Misfit | Book Review

Now, I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to actually write a review of this book because quite honestly, I didn't love it and if I was to sum this book up, I would probably just say 'meh'. This is your typical American High School romance about teenagers, something like a trashy Mean Girls. I think that the reason I decided to review this book was because I really wanted to like it, it portrays such important topics and messages, but in the wrong ways and I'm not sure if I managed to read this book within a day because I wanted it to get better or because I couldn't wait for it to be over. Before I start, I firstly want to say how this book is written in a format that I am not only new to, but also don't like. Words like "gonna", "kinda", "dunno" and "shoulda" can be quite hard to read when you're not used to slang being in a book or throughout the entire book. 

I also don't like how almost everything (quite literally) is over-exaggerated. Anika (explained below) talks about "THE Jared Kline" when the most popular boy in the school starts talking to her. By this point in the book, we have already heard about five times about Jared Kline and I just don't see the point in all of the tension which just makes the book seem trashy, what happened to characters explaining how they said a sentence or elaborating on how they're feeling? To make matters even worse, whilst flicking through the book to recap, I have found this exact sentence twice within two pages, we get it, seriously. 

Upon reading the first two chapters of this book, I felt that Anika Dragomir; the main character and narrator was quite immature for her age. She's a fifteen year old girl who is number three in the school's social hierarchy after number one; Becky Vilhauer and number two; Shelli Schroeder who is "my best friend even though she's kind of a slut", so there we have it, offensive words and shaming of her so called best friend on page four of the novel. This book is honestly so full of offensive lines and just implies that so many things are wrong, creating and feeding negative stereotypes for instance; "she makes out and even does the whole in-and-out with the high school rockers. Like a lot". The problem with this statement is that sex is an activities that almost everybody does throughout their life and enjoying sex and having a lot of sex, doesn't make you a slut in the slightest. In only the forth chapter of the book, Shelli tells Anika that there is a party happening on Friday that they should go to, to which Anika replies with "they're just going to try and stick their wieners in us", presuming that the only thing that teenage boys want to do is have sex or even worse, non-consented sex.

Anika talks through her family including her "stupid sisters" who she often makes harsh comments towards before wondering why they don't like her. Her brothers "are in the back, probably setting fire to themselves or killing something" which leaves her mother, who she describes as "the only decent one in the house" which was until she met her husband, Anika's stepdad who she calls 'the ogre'. As you can probably tell by this point, this book is full of stereotypes and each character portrays a different one. I'm not saying that it is bad to have stereotypes in books, but when every single stereotype gets taken to the extreme, you start to wonder how this novel has seriously made it to the bookshelf in W.H.Smith. 

Just as an over cap, so far we are convincing the audience that step-dads are evil, having sex makes someone a slut, that boys like to kill things and to make it even worse, I couldn't believe what I read next. Anika's father is Romanian, making her half American and half Romanian which in today's society, there is nothing wrong with yet she constantly refers to her father as a 'vampire', referring to herself as 'half vampire'. Anika then acts shocked when her brother "doesn't care about being a half breed", a half breed, are you for real? All because just like half of the national, she is from two different countries. Of course, Becky (the number one girl) calls Anika 'immigrant', just to top all these stereotypes off. When reading this book, I got confused what era this book was set in because although the majority of the story relates to modern day things, the stereotypes certainly don't, not for the majority anyway.

I hate to tell you, but these messages only get worse. We soon find out that Shelli's mother is a Christian, no big deal right? Anyway, Anika explains how Shelli's mother "makes her burn her hair after she gets a haircut, so no one tries to cast a spell on her" before saying the following about Shelli, "maybe she can't add. She is a Christian. I don't think they believe in math" as well as saying how when Shelli's mum found out that Anika was half Romanian, she tried to cut contact between the two. 

It really bothers me how easily some of the most offensive words and phrases are thrown around in this book, I have repeatedly heart the words nerd, slut, freaks, bitch, dick etc and these words can get away with being used every so often but they aren't the most pleasant of words to be reading on every other page.

One of the sentences that gets me the most is "the weird thing is.. It's not like you can point at anything that made her that way. It's not like her dad's a criminal or her moms a crack-addict or she was raised in an orphanage or something" when describing and trying to work out why Becky is as mean and harsh as she is. I really don't know what point was trying to be said here, was it that you're going to be a mean or bad person if any of those things have happened to you? 

Now, don't get me wrong. Anika does have a good heart and it seems that she is always trying to cheer up the people constantly bullied and belittled by Becky. She goes to apologise to a girl who Becky made rumors about being pregnant, she tried to talk to another boy Joel who has been constantly beat up and harassed for years after not giving Becky a piece of gum but when it comes to admitting what she has done to Becky, she lies and finds excuses of how her mum told her that if she didn't apologise she'd be grounded, just for an easy life.

One of the main issues that came up throughout this novel is racism, which was portrayed and dealt with correctly to some extend, it would have worked if it wasn't completely and utterly exaggerated which is a shame because it could and would have made a really strong point. The opening line of the thirteenth chapter comes from Anika's boss, Mr. Baum at the Bunza Hut where she works and goes by these exact words; "I just want you to know, I hired a black girl. Don't be scared." Are you actually having a laugh? Did I seriously just read this line from a novel? Anika brushes it off and asks Mr. Baum why they would be scared before telling us that "Mr. Baum, and every other adult I know, seems to actually think this stuff makes some kind of difference" suggesting that although they have been brought up in what sounds like a racist community, they really couldn't care what colour her skin is. We don't hear anything more on this matter until we get to chapter fifteen where Mr. Baum wants Shelli and Anika to meet Tiffany which he then proceeds to whisper "the black girl". Mr. Baum doesn't seem to be happy about the situation which has left me confused due to the fact that if he was as much of a racist as he is made out to be, why would he bother to employ her in the first place? He asks Anika out back for a private word and his side of the conversation includes the following sentences; "Anika, I know you probably are not happy with this situation. For obvious reasons", Anika is confused and asks why to which he responds with "because she's a...negro. And I need you there to make sure she understands...the concepts." Anika explains how she thinks that Mr. Baum needs to give Tiffany a chance to which he tells her how he obviously has done by hiring her. 

Throughout the following chapters, there are continuous comments made about Tiffany and considering that this was meant to be the main purpose of the book, it just doesn't work and it doesn't work because so far throughout the novel people have constantly been put down for being nerds, sluts, religious, gay and the list just goes on. It just doesn't feel like there is any true meaning in this issue after all of that stereotypical comments are made. At one point, we have learnt that Anika and Shelli have been stealing money from work and Anika decides that she can't let Tiffany in on it because "Tiffany is black she's genetically predisposed to steal everything in sight. I mean, it's ludicrous" and goes on to explain how narrow minded many people in their town really are. At this point of the book, I was starting to be pleased that I actually didn't stop reading as I really did think that a positive message would come out of it. However, on the next page the assumptions start to appear. Anika explains how her mother often takes Tiffany home from work when her mom forgets to pick her up which is very out of their way, "I'd be annoyed except you can't help but feel guilty when you see where Tiffany lives. It ain't no country club, that's for sure". A little while later Anika explains how "there's almost a thousand different questions I want to ask Tiffany but every single one of them seems like the dumbest ever" before proceeding to wonder why Tiffany always chooses to eat the free food that they get at work and not before long, Anika is almost convinced that Tiffany isn't eating any food at home and decides that the best thing to do is to invite her over to dinner. Obviously, it is a concern if she wasn't able to eat at home but I don't think that it's right that these assumptions only came up because she's from a different culture. 

I don't want to ramble on anymore about the whole racism section of this book because I honestly think it is so disheartening that this issue had so much potential within this novel, if only it wasn't for the silly remarks at the beginning. There is one more issue though, one that I haven't address which is of course, love and romance and of course, despite being "hideous", Anika ends up with two boys in love with her at the same time. To be entirely honest, I found this quite a boring part of the book, it was constantly her just unsure of which one to go for which results in her staying with the 'popular' boy over the 'nerd' just so she doesn't get her life 'ruined' by her so called friend Becky. It is so clear that she so badly wants to be with the other guy but she is too scared to face the truth that this novel ends in such a horrible tragedy of the boy who Anika was madly in love with, being murdered. Their relationship ended on a bad note and argument and to make things even worse, Anika woke up in the middle of the night with the urge to call him and tell him how she feels about him. We tragically soon realise that this was around the exact time of when the murder happened.

To be entirely honest, the ending of the book was the best part, it felt like it had the most story line and emotions it is just such a shame that the first 85% of the novel was slow and boring and full of negative commends towards different people. I think there are probably more people who picked up this book before putting it down after twenty chapters than there are who actually finished it. On Goodreads, I rated this book two stars out of five because of its awful and slow story-line and it's appalling stereotypes. I honestly could probably write a whole book on the negatives to this novel but I have rambled enough. I feel that I have been a bit harsh to the writer of this novel but in all honesty, she is obviously very talented but a book like this was going to be very hit or miss and I am afraid that from me, it is a miss. If you don't believe how bad some of the comments in this novel are, then give it a look for yourself but prepare to be disappointed, please.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

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