Thursday, July 24, 2008

Looks by Madeleine George

As with all my book discussions, there are some SPOILERS below.

I love the idea of opposites attracting. That’s what drew me to this book. The main characters are Meghan Ball, a very overweight teenager, and Aimee Zorn, an anorexic. This is an interesting story of how these two unlikely teenagers become friends.

I thought the characterization strategies used in this book were intriguing. Aimee’s character was very clear from the time she was introduced. Her point of view is third person limited – we get right into her head and never leave it. Her voice is very clear, so we always know instantly when it’s her turn to tell her story. We get to know her family life, as well as what motivates her. She’s very real, leaps off the page, and I really felt for her when things started to go wrong.

Meghan’s story is a bit different. In school, she’s practically invisible. Ironic, since she’s so large. But people just don’t notice her presence. As a result, she overhears much more than the speakers intend, simply because they don’t realize she’s there. It’s like she has an omniscient point of view regarding nearly everyone around her. To draw on that, the point of view chosen to tell Meghan’s story has a touch of omniscience – we’re inside her head, yet we’re always just a little outside, too.

The writer geek in me loves the idea of drawing a parallel between the omniscience Meghan experiences and the omniscience the reader experiences. But the practical side of me can’t help but notice the limitations. We’re never fully inside Meghan’s head. We don’t ever see her family life from her point of view – and her family doesn’t even enter the picture until near the end. We’re kept a certain distance from her, which made it harder for me to both sympathize and relate to her. And I really, really wanted to do both of these things.

Because of this lack of sympathy, it made the book’s resolution a little hard to digest. Meghan exacts revenge on one of her classmates. In order to understand her motivations, I needed to be able to feel how she’d been hurt. How she felt she’d been wronged. But that element was missing, so it made her seem a little petty. Had her role been switched with Aimee, I’m sure I would have understood everything and sympathized accordingly. But, in the end, it came down to Meghan. So, while I still liked the story, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

From a writer’s perspective, this is a really cool book to read. In just one story, you can get effective examples of third person limited and third person omni. And you can see how one measures up against the other.

13 comments:

Marcia said...

Another book to add to my "gotta read this" pile. I love your book discussions, Tabitha.

Jacqui said...

I agree. I very much enjoyed the book. But I also would have liked more. It's hard to have a main character whose overriding character trait is "doesn't reveal a lot about herself." George carries it off, I think, but it's hard.

I was fascinated by the obsession side of it -- a very unique take on high school friendships.

Tabitha said...

Marcia - Thanks! I'm glad my ramblings are interesting to others. :) I think you'll enjoy the book. It's a good story.

Jacqui - did you know that while you were reading my blog, I was reading yours? How funny is that? :)

I was also fascinated by the obsession side of things. And how much that slap hurts when reality hits. Very well done. There are a lot of great things in this book, and George is obviously a talented writer. I could spend weeks studying this book and learning much about writing techniques. :)

Angela said...

When she exacts revenge, is it for herself, or her friend?

Interesting with the two POVs. I usually don't like books with 2 viewpoints, but I think that 3rd and omni are an unusual (and perhaps easier) combo to digest that the usual 1st and third that usually occurs in multi POV books.

Tabitha said...

She does it for both, I think. On one hand, she wants to help this person whose friendship she wants to keep. And on the other, she's jumping at the chance to get back at someone who hurt her long ago.

I'm not a big fan of two POV's either. Most of the time, it's not necessary for the story to be told through both characters, it's just easier. But in this case, I buy the fact that this story needs to be told through both Aimee's and Meghan's eyes. YMMV. :)

PJ Hoover said...

I love the idea of comparing the differing POVs. It's fascinating stuff, those POVs, and the more I learn about them, the more I love them!

Tabitha said...

It sure is fascinating! All this writer stuff is so cool. :) If you find any other stuff with good POV examples, drop me a line! :)

beth said...

I remember reading about this book when it came out and thinking that the idea was neat. I'm not sure if it is something I would like, though. I tend more towards fantasy, and this book really seems like one where I will end up sad.

Tabitha said...

I didn't end up sad after reading this book. It definitely has an upbeat ending. I was more confused than anything, which is partly why I didn't love it. But still, it's a good story. And if you want to study those two points of view, this is the perfect book to do it. :)

Pema said...

Good reminder - we may beam over the fact that we have developed this one character so well, yet we might forget about the characters in the process.

Tabitha said...

Good point. It's always important to remember all of your characters, because readers will always always pick up on that. :)

Mary Witzl said...

I actually like books with two -- or even more -- POVs. I'm not sure why; often I just like the switch from one person to another -- the different perspective. The subject of unlikely friendships is also one I love, so I will have to read this. Up until I read this, I'd never even heard of this book! I'm beginning to feel really ignorant of YA literature instead of just moderately ignorant. I tend to read what my kids bring home, but it is almost all British. It's high time for me to catch up on American YA books!

Tabitha said...

This is a brand new release, so I'm sure that's why you haven't heard of it yet. :)

It's a good read, and if you like multiple POVs, then I think you'll like it.