Saturday, June 07, 2014

Book 1. "Life Is Fine" By Allison Whittenberg

My 48 Hour Book Challenge weekend started a little around 3:00 this afternoon, and I just finished my book around 4:45.

I always like to have a theme for 48HBCs, and this year I accepted the official 48HBC theme as my own. Diversity. I haven't done any reading of the many, many things that have been written on the subject these past couple of months. When selecting my books, I didn't even use any book lists. I had a chance to hit a couple of libraries this past month and for the most part just picked up whatever I found that seemed to fit the bill.

Life is Fine by Allison Whittenberg (who needs a website) was an interesting read for me because I picked it up nearly a month ago. By the time I started reading it today, I no longer remembered what it was about. I like when that happens.

I want to get one thing straight right away. I liked this book. I think one could make an argument that there were a lot of cliched problem novel elements in this thing--neglected child with a single mom who needs men in her life, illness and the specter of death turns up, literature changes lives--and, yet, I liked it. I think main character Samara has a little bit of attitude that shows up not so much in her first-person narration but in her interactions with people. I liked very much the way race was handled here. There are no characters wearing metaphorical signs saying "I'm the African American character!" "I'm the Puerto Rican character!" Yet they are there. Now this may be why you want to see books by ethnic writers. They may be able to create ethnic characters who just are.

Now, after all this, I will tell you the really neat thing about this book. Teenage Samara falls for her substitute teacher--who is seventy, if he's a day. I would have loved to have seen a lot more about that.

I definitely would be interested in reading more of Whittenberg's work.


Charlotte said...

Sounds like an interesting one (I clicked through, and can't think of another girl/orangatuang (sp?) relatinship...

Ms. Yingling said...

One of the interesting things about the whole #WNDB push is the question of whether or not we specifically mention the characters ethnicity in a review. As much as we want to see diverse characters in books where the plot is not about their ethnicity, I still like to know about it, in the same way that I want to know that a book is about football, or ballet, or environmentalism. So in addition to reading diverse books, it's been fun to have conversations about them as well.

Gail Gauthier said...

I haven't been involved in the conversation about this subject. However, after this weekend's reading, I wonder if writing about diverse characters isn't just about character but about setting. Or, maybe, no, world building. The world of the book needs to be one in which the characters will comfortably and logically exist. So you end up needing a lot more than just AN ethnic character.