First off, this book is physically stunning. The prose are also stunning at times. However, if I had to describe it in one word, it would be pretentious. Let’s get into the synopsis before I get into style issues I had.
The book was told from several POVs: Will, Phoebe, and John Leal. Will was a poor kid from California who got into a prestigious school on the east coast. He felt the need to hide the fact that he’s not
He worked his ass off and relied on scholarship money, often sending what he made waiting tables back home to mom. We quickly learn that Will grew up in a religious household and became disillusioned. He moved to run from his past.
Phoebe, a pianist prodigy, lost her way. She’d given up piano entirely and was looking for a place to land when she met Will. She spent most of her time drinking and dancing. Her limbs were very shiny and her breasts looked like fists. More on that later.
John Leal: former student, mysterious man, cult leader. The author didn’t give us too many John Leal chapters, which is fine. It’s best to not spend too much time with cult leaders.
Phoebe met John Leal and began hanging out with his crew. They never call themselves family; I guess Manson ruined that one for everyone. She enjoyed the sense of community and invited Will to join her for a meeting. Will, having grown up in a fundamentalist home, saw John Leal for what he was. But he hung around. It’s what you do when you’re young and in love. I guess. I never once joined a cult. For Phoebe’s sake, Will played along, going to confessionals, attending Pro-Life rallies, lying around drinking wine with an old man. As Phoebe’s interest in John Leal grew, Will became more concerned. He looked into him, his entire backstory was fabricated. Will confronted Phoebe, who implied Will was jealous and left…after a terrible incident in the kitchen she shared with Will. Will, with his actions, drove her closer to John Leal.
And then the abortion clinics blew up.
The ending, which I won’t give away, is open ended, so don’t expect a tidy little bow.
Now for the style issues I had. The prose is sometimes off-putting. “Hip-hop pulsed, rolled”, some “limbs shone”, just a lot of inanimate things performing action. It made the book difficult for me to read. I can’t find the exact quote, but there is a sex scene where Phoebe’s boobs are described as fists-like and there’s mention of her “rosebud”. If you have even a vague idea of what a rosebud is, don’t click the link. It gets worse.
Lastly, Kwon doesn’t punctuate her dialogue. Look, I know it is a style choice, but I hate it.
Hey, it could be that punctuating dialogue is a weak point for me as a writer and it never occurred to me that I could just not do it. Maybe it’s all jealousy on my part. All I know for sure is, it bugs me.
This book, despite being about a cult blowing up abortion clinics, was boring. Much in the same way How to Set a Fire and Why was boring.
Hopefully. I make a better choice next time. #choices