Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Leftovers by Laura Wiess

Title: Leftovers
Author: Laura Wiess
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 1, 2008
Publisher: MTV Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from November 16 to 18, 2011
My rating: 4 stars: I really like it
Summary: Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence. You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see. You'll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today. Are you ready? 


This book is much better than I first expected! If it hadn't been for Leftovers, I might have forgot for good how addictive a good book is supposed to and can be! The last time I was this seriously absorbed in a book was two months ago, so I really missed this feeling. You know when you finish a book and it leaves you with your heart racing and your brain thinking? With that feeling that you don't want it to be over yet? You know when you reach the last page without noticing it? Yup, Leftovers did that to me.

Leftovers is written in a style I haven't experienced before. It's told in the voices of two best friends, Blair and Ardith, that come out so real, so believable. Each tells their side of the story in alternative chapters to a third person, and it wasn't until about half way through the book that I figured out who it is. They talk to that person to let him know about their totally different lives at home and at school. Blair is a girl from a broken, rich family. All her lawyer mother cares about is her career, she tries to keep the apparently fallen-apart family together because "appearances count", and she won't let anything come in her way of making judge, not even Blair herself, who is used to get her what she wants. Blair used to be the inexperienced and innocent one, until she went and let her ignorant innocence screw up herself. (Some people might disagree with me, but yes, I do think that she asked for it, and what happened to her was partly her own fault.) Then she becomes a very different person, damaged as she is, and sees the world in another different attitude. Her character development in the story is very obvious. Ardith, on the other hand, doesn't develop much in the story. She comes from a house that's never quiet, that hosts parties daily and has a pool where teens are caught "doing it". Growing up in a house like that, she hates it. You might wonder why her parents do nothing about it, well, it's because they're the leaders. Her mother owns adult websites and her father is a goddamn pervert. Her brother and his friends find girls to hook up there, and even her father perversely feels up those girls. Ardith lives in constant fear of being sexually harassed in her own house. She also admits that she doesn't feel safe even with her own father. He also likes to touch her when he can. These two best friends, Blair and Ardith, are partners in crime, and they're telling all of this to the third person, so he can understand them, their motives, and what they want.

This book is so good. Almost everything seems so real to me. So scarily real and accurate. Also disgusting. And very disturbing. The story is so powerful and addictive that it's hard to put the book down once you've picked it up. I was so close to giving this five stars after finishing it. The reason I didn't is because there is one thing I don't like about it.

What annoys me about this book is the narrative. That's the only drawback I can think of. When the girls tell the story, they don't tell it like this, "I woke up and felt hungry," but instead, "You wake up and feel hungry." It's like this almost all the time, and I don't like it. It doesn't work. What's wrong with saying it with "I"? Why bother? I think the author tried too hard at this one, and it fails. It doesn't help the reader get into the story more than narrating it normally. It seems unnatural. And sometimes it doesn't feel like they're TELLING a story, because the words and sentences sound too fiction-like, if you know what I mean. It sounds like what other normal fiction stories sound like, but it's not supposed to be like that with this book, you know? It should be more conversation-like, talking-like, because, well, the girls are TELLING a story at that very moment in time to ANOTHER person.

Other than the narrative, everything else is AMAZING. The characters are so real. Every single one of them. The girls' voices are so loud and clear, the things they talk about come out so graphic, so vivid. Every feeling, every rage, every misery, I can feel them. The "crime" they commit together isn't a crime at all, though it's disgusting to think about. But they have their reasons and though the end doesn't justify the means, the purpose is very understandable and heart-breaking. As far as everybody else is concerned, they didn't do anything at all. When they finally tell what it is, I was caught a bit off guard. It wasn't what I had in mind, but it wasn't disappointing either. Although the girls are not very like-able all the time, it's hard not to sympathize with them. This is one of the books that make you realize you have a good life, no matter how crappy you think it is. It makes you appreciate the life you're having. It makes me glad that I didn't have to go through anything like that in my high school life. But it also makes me think about what I would do, were I in their position. Would I let the society label me and destroy me, sit back and let the villains be seen as some kind of heroes, let injustice roam the society, or would I strike back? What would you do?


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This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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