Title: Creepy and Maud
Author: Dianne Touchell
Rating: 3 Stars
Creepy and Maud is a strange book. A really strange book. On one hand, I really do have to give Touchell props for creating a contemporary novel that is original and unique in nearly every way that counts. It quite honestly seems impossible to find another novel that is similar to this in any way. Yet, ironically enough, I think it was this very same originality that I'm always running towards that managed to make this book not work for me as much as I may have wanted it to.
I find it difficult to explain Touchell's debut. Very loosely, it's the story of two children who are neighbors and fall in love through their window conversations. From the surface, it seems very cute and sweet, but don't let that fool you. In actuality, Creepy and Maud is a very dark tale. Creepy narrates the majority of the story with a few perspective shifts to Maud, the girl next door, who constantly pulls her hair out. Whether it be the hair on her head, the hair on her eyelashes, or her pubic hair, Maud just can't seem to stop.
At the same time, though, Maud has a volatile relationship with her parents with her father occasionally abusing her and her parents stuck in a terrible marriage. Creepy understands this perfect as his own parents share a bad marriage - one so bad that his father has trained their dog to bite his wife. If that wasn't strange enough, Creepy has his nose stuck in books all day, denied the access of any technology and both him and Maud attend a religious school.
Now, first and foremost, I have to admit that it was simultaneously really easy and really hard for me to connect with this story. On one hand, Creepy's narration reads very intelligently and is extremely witty, keeping your attention. Yet, at the same time, so many of the instances in this novel seem exaggerated to the point where they come across as unbelievable. For me, this novel felt like a classic situation where I sympathized with the characters and for their dire situations, but never really empathized with them.
Furthermore, Maud was very tough for me to get a grasp on. I suspect this has to do with the fact that her narration lacks contractions, making it a little irritating to read through and, as such, I will admit to skimming through a lot of her story. Yet, in my defense, this book lacks a conclusive plot line. Dianne Touchell pushes her characters to the limits of their endurance, but almost not enough. Granted, they both have bad backgrounds and go to a ridiculous school that continually censors any mention of sex (which is impossible since teenagers will find out about sex one way or the other) and on top of that, their parents don't understand them and they've grown up believing that love can never really last, as evidenced by their parents marriage.
Yet, into this is thrown the weirdest romance/friendship/love story imaginable. Creepy's narration is dispersed with paragraphs dedicated to random observations, his friendship with Maud grows through words scribbled on paper and shown through a window, and all in all, this was just so...strange. Weird. Unusual. I know I'm always harping about books being too typical, too standard, too much like everything else out there, but I think this one was a little too out there for me. I simply could not completely understand the characters. I wasn't in their heads enough. I didn't even find the ending to be all that powerful. If anything, it just seemed kind of inevitable.
Creepy and Maud, though, is a book I still recommend, although with reservations. I know plenty of my friends have loved it, which clearly means there is something in this book that I am just not seeing. It's written very well, clever and witty while still managing to paint a picture of depression and reality. Perhaps the best part of it, though, is that Touchell never sugar coats life. Instead, she keeps everything very realistic, which I truly appreciated. Sometimes, people just aren't meant to be parents and that is felt so palpably with this novel. Although I'll be wary about picking up another Touchell novel in the future, I know she's an author I'll be too curious to resist. If nothing else, you can be sure that she'll make you think and, sometimes, what more can you ask for?
A huge thank you to my friend Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds for sending me a copy of this book to read and review since it isn't available in the US. You're the best, dear! :)
Title: Life in Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Rating: 4.5 Stars
From first glance, Life in Outer Space is a book we all know well. We have our standard group of misfits who is content with their avoiding-the-bully-at-all-costs lifestyle until the new girl walks in, dazzles the entire school, but somehow joins the group of misfits. Who are not-so-misfit anymore. And, what do you know, we have our classic tale of a best friend romance. I know it's been done before, but it works every time. What makes Life in Outer Space so remarkable, though, is that it is a story of friendship far before it is a story of love. Camilla is the type of girl who fits in like a glove, but underneath her cheerful exterior is a girl who wants to find a place to belong. Stuck with her dad, who constantly moves, Camilla has never had a close group of friends who have lasted for very long - until now. In Sam, movie nerd 101; Adrian, socially awkward but without inhibitions; Allison, obsessed with anime; and Mike, silent, gay, and dedicated to karate, Camilla finds a group of friends who have each others backs and are ready to have hers too.
As the narrator of the tale, Sam is delightful. One of my favorite aspects of his tale is the fact that he must come to realize that just as he doesn't have everything figured out in life, his parents often don't have everything figured out either. When his parents finally get divorced and are faced with a fresh plate, he is surprised at their indecision. And yet, this is what I love about this genre and age group - this is when we all realize that our parents are not God and nor are they perfect human beings. In fact, they are still finding themselves and sometimes, that is a very scary realization. And when this crisis hits Sam, he has his friends to fall back upon. Seriously, the dynamics between this group is so realistic and palpable that I feel as if I could hug them all. Although they are all concerned for one another, especially Mike who mysteriously quits karate, they are often too engrossed with their own lives to prod too deeply into each others. And I feel as if this is another classic friendship crisis - which, by the way, Keil deals with beautifully. As this book came to and end, I wanted to pump my fist and cry with happiness because the friendships in this are so, so lovely.
Not to be outdone, though, the romance is slow and sizzling, perfect and awkward. Sam doesn't even realize the depth of his feelings for Camilla until he is barreled over with them all at once along with the admission that someone like Camilla could never go for movie-obsessed him. Sam's passion for movies, though, is what makes this book such a delight to read. Life in Outer Space is riddled with movie references and allusions and while we can see that Camilla is besotted by Sam's passions, he - obviously - can't. And watching these two grow from friends to something more and witnessing the trust and understanding they share is wonderful. It's so rare to find love stories that are based heavily upon strong friendships, so in all counts, this book is a definite winner. Strong, lively, and endearing characters make Life in Outer Space the sheer delight it in and as far as rom coms go, this is one of the good ones.
THANK YOU Mandee for allowing me to be part of this blog tour and THANK YOU Flann for sending this to me along with The Bitter Kingdom! You ladies rock! :D