Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

All right. Here it is. The book that planted me solidly on the book blogger leper colony. The book everyone seems to have written glowing reviews of but for one or two people. It's even got a very respectable 4.12 out of 5 star rating on Library Thing. There are people out there saying this is one of their favorite reads of the year. So what's wrong with me? Oh well, here I go with the review, as promised. Please be gentle when throwing the rotten fruits and veggies, mmkay?

Angel Duet has problems. Her mother is dead leaving only photographs of clouds that serve as a centerpiece for Angel and her father's lives and an empty space where all the feelings associated with mother should have been. Her father, she discovers, is a liar. She suffers from debilitating narcolepsy that leaves her dependent on her father and her irritating would-be stepmother, Carla. She wants people to know and understand her intimately, like a mother would, but she holds people at arm's length afraid to let them into her life for fear that they won't understand her or will attempt to define her in terms of her illness. She's lonely and confused and searching for anybody who will help her fill up the hole in herself that can only be filled by mother. Her search leads her into the arms of a married man, the lesbian cousin of a friend, and into the arms of the boring and self-involved Christian who will ultimately give her a reason to look her own life in the face and fill in the blanks of her story that have plagued her for so long.

How I wish I had really liked this book like the rest of the blogosphere seems to have liked it. It's the first book that was ever sent to me for review that someone came to me to offer it. I sat down to read it with high hopes, and out of the gate found it, well, difficult. To be quite honest, had I purchased this book and plucked it off my enormous TBR pile, it probably wouldn't have passed the 50 page test. The first fifty pages are rough, filled with convoluted descriptions of the, at first, very unlikeable Angel's overdramatic thoughts and daydreams. Awkward and abrupt transitions combined with Angel's struggle to divide what is reality from what is dream confuse the narrative and make the story hard to get lost in. The seeming self-consciousness of the writing combined with the use of "cain't" and "thang" to communicate the characters' southern accents make the writing seem almost amateurish to me. Good writing is supposed to be a vehicle for a story, but the writing in the first fifty pages of Aberrations feels like just writing.

That said, by the time I reached the end of the book, I was almost glad I hadn't given up on it. As Aberrations progresses, the narrative sheds a good deal of its awkwardness, revealing a more heartfelt story with a main character that we have begun to sympathize with despite her many mistakes and weaknesses as she begins to rebuild from the ashes the life she thought she knew. Watching Angel grow into a character readers can care about and a whole person who has come to grips with the secrets of her past and the realities of her present is what gives this book a soul that will appeal to readers. Przekop has created a cast of characters that start out very shallow and unlikeable but end up as real people who have faced real problems for better or for worse - people that we can ultimately understand and sympathize with despite their many failings.

Oh, and since I usually go out of my way to note the effect of bad cover art on my desire to read a book, I definitely want to point this one out as an example of really great cover art. It's eye-catching, it highlights stuff from the book, very nice. Definitely something that I would take a closer look at if I cam upon it at a bookstore.

While I wouldn't exactly classify Aberrations as my cup of tea, many (okay most) book bloggers enjoyed it much more than I did. I would encourage you to read their reviews for a second (and third and fourth...) opinion that is wildly different from my own.

The Literate Housewife
Bookish Ruth
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
From My Bookshelf
Crescent Moon Book Reviews
Bookannelid Book Reviews


  1. I liked your review. It was open and honest. Thanks. I also know how you feel - I feel the same way when I see all the raves that David Sedaris gets. I see nothing funny or worth my time and find myself wondering what's wrong with me when I read the glowing reviews from everyone else.

    Ah well. How boring would it be if we were identical copies of each other?


  2. You've written a great review and expressed yourself very well, Megan. I don't know why we feel guilty about not liking something other people have enjoyed--there's really nothing wrong with a difference of opinion about a book. Reading is such a personal experience. I would rather you be honest rather than not speak up at all. I think readers benefit from balanced reviews, both the negative and positive. You've done a good job of that here.

    Thank you for linking my review, by the way! I added a link to your review to mine as well. :-)

  3. I haven't read the book but I appreciate the honesty in your review. There's nothing quite like finishing a book, thinking "meh," and finding evidence that you're the only one who felt that way.

  4. An honest review, nothing wrong with that!

    I haven't yet *Aberrations*, so I can't give you my opinion. In fact, before it came out I was offered the opportunity to review it as an ARC and I passed on it, thinking the description didn't appeal to me. Now I wonder what I missed (seeing all the rave reviews).

    I gave a "thumbs down" to *Three Cups of Tea*, and am in the vast minority on that one. Like you, I explained why it didn't work for me ...

  5. Megan, no rotten veggies from me! I enjoyed reading your review. You expressed in a fair and balanced way, and most importantly, disagreed without being disagreeable. It's always refreshing to see that; it's a great quality for a book reviewer to have! I've read negative reviews on Amazon from time to time where the reviewer essentially says, "I hated this book, and anyone who likes it is a moron" and I've never found those types of reviews to be helpful.

    Thanks also for linking to my review! I need to start doing that on mine.

  6. Thanks for your honest review. I've read so many reviews about this book that are positive, so I'm keeping it on my wish list. Every book is not for everybody, though.

  7. Great review! Nothing wrong with being a contrarian!

    By the way, we are in The Complete Booker together. So today is my day to check out the blogs of all my fellow participants. What an interesting and creative bunch of fellow readers! Keep up the good work!

  8. Thanks all for your comments on this review. It's always really hard to write a negative review, but I almost always find a few good things I can say about a book to balance it out. I'm glad to hear that many of you thought I did a good job of being fair and balanced while still being honest as that's what I really shoot for! It's always nice to know that I didn't come off just sounding like a big jerk. ;-)

  9. Hmmm,I hadn't even heard of this one. The description doesn't really sound like I'd like it much, though. And what is it with cloud photographs? I just read a YA novel with the mother wandering off across the country taking photos of clouds - but I can't recall the title!

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