Review: The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Genre: young-adult, general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 240 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected May 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

I'm Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn't want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee's parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of "The Unbearable Book Club," CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren't friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I'll turn in when I go back to school.

Like a lot of recent young-adult novels aimed directly at teenage girls who love to read, this is a book directly centered on teens and reading. Unfortunately, for The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls and its members, a genuine love of books and the written word is either: nonexistent, secondary to boys other concerns, or utterly contrived. The only time a love of books was believable where the random, short allusions to famous novels as a frame of reference for how Adrienne, the main character, viewed what was happening. It just wasn't enough. I, obviously, wasn't the biggest fan of this book - it's a fairly shallow novel and will eventually prove forgettable in a world filled with just so many books to read - but it's not horrible. It's not even bad - it's just not for me. I, personally, didn't connect with any of the four main teenage girl characters; instead I found them to be stereotypes and one-dimensional outlets for drama.

I just plain expected more than lip-service about books and cliches for characters. Take each one of the four girls (Adrienne our narrator, Wallis, CeeCee, Jill) and each pretty much conform to a different, overused, one-dimensional cliche. (I'm reaaallly, reallly tired of the whole blonde girl = has to be bad idea in YA all the time.) Adrienne: the introverted bookish one. CeeCee: the popular, stuck-up, blonde, bitch. Jill: the smart, overly type A personality AND Asian one. Wallis: the outcast enigma, misunderstood with a messed up family life. Each of the girls have complex relationships with their respective mothers - expecting only Wallis, whose mother is never apart of the club: the one thing I did like about the book club meetings were the interesting dynamics between the attending mother-daughter pairs. It was very interesting to me that the mothers are never even awarded names throughout the whole novel. Each is simply referred to as "CeeCee's mom" or "Jill's mom". However, the few glimpses into each girl's own "personality" does not create a wholly rounded character for any of them. The extended cast - primary, secondary, tertiary - of The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is largely weak and hard to connect with. 

On the whole, words like "superficial" "bland" and really just, "meh" sum up pretty much how I feel about this whole novel. I didn't hate it, and actually enjoyed the creative way the story was told, which is why I can't be mean enough to rate it lower than 2.5 out of 5 stars, but it just wasn't good enough. If the trials and tribulations of the girls had been more interesting or involving, or if I even liked the characters enough to give a hoot what happened, this would've been a more enjoyable read.

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