What do you do?
WHAT DO YOU DO?!?!
Well duh, kidnap her urn and take a roadtrip to California with your best friend and some random "douche-baggy hipster music snob with the taste of a forty-year old white guy" of course. The latter, by the way, also needs to fulfill the minimum requirement of being "sorta hot", owning a van named after a singer who OD-ed in heroin (because he's cool like that), mad skills in the dance floor and a shroud of mystery in his connection to suicidal sis.
This should have been an easy sell to me. I love road trip stories. Old people music is heavily integrated in the plot (The Beatles!) and the snappy, witty banter between her characters, I'm starting to recognize as a Hannah Harrington trademark, was beyond amusing. Plus there's a somber, melancholic promise of delivering the feels with Harper being the troublesome, darker sister trying to figure out why her near-perfect sister just one day decided to kill herself.
But something in the way she moves (see what I did there?)… makes me want to shake Harper into the future. So we could skip the teenage angst, the road trip lessons from the mosh pit (in a punk concert. Seriously.), the protest rally and Fridgehenge to get to the part where she becomes the remarkable woman I already know she will become.
Have you ever thought about those books that we've read with the awesome, battle-scarred heroines who spout chockfull of wisdom and worldly views? You ever wonder how they got there?
This felt like the chronicles of that painful birthing process. Because at one point, those strong women we all agree to be a benchmark of cool and amazingness went through sixteen. And the thought process of angry, sixteen year old Harper is rife with self-esteem issues, egocentric notions and hormonally driven decisions that challenges my patience and understanding. But add in the grief and my limit has been exceed.
Because there were just one too many "woe is me" moments where Harper competes with the memory of June, followed by missing her sister, followed by being angry at herself for being helpless and rounding up nicely to placing some misplaced blame on everyone around her for not understanding her.
It's easily excused as her coping mechanism, yes but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
There's also an inexplicable amount of cheese and cliche that shouldn't be cheesy and cliched to anyone else but me, I guess. Because its probably just the Beatle fan snob in me that cringed when they sang along to Hey Jude in the van (it's a great song but you have an audiophile in the van and we couldn't have chosen something less… kitschy for the scene?) or when Harper broke down while listening to Let It Be.
There was also some stereotyping that didn't feel well with me.The divorcee aunt who Harper alleges to turn to religion as a crutch was painted to be disfavored. Thedreadlocked, pot-smoking friend will sell a Hendrix memorabilia because its not Bob Marley. Jake's Bitchy Ex-girlfriend who trades the activist lifestyle for college ?
"She created this papier-mâché Jesus - except it's Jesus as a woman - and there are high heels instead of nails through the hands. And there's a tampon stuffed in Jesus' mouth."
Which of course represents "women's oppression due to traditionally gendered beauty standards driven by patriarchy".
But I can never deny Hannah Harrington's gift for dialogue. Easily among the sharpest and wittiest I've read so far in the genre. Which makes an excellent tool to draw her protagonists closer, thankfully avoiding the hateful insta-love pitfall . There's a scattered quality to the message it was trying to to drive but the clever banter between her characters shines through, even when it's Harper and Jake bickering and bent on making the road trip end up in hell or a ditch somewhere.
"I can't believe you saw me puke," I groan pulling the blankets over my head.
"It was a lovely moment," he says drily. "Now there's a band name for you - the Lovely Pukes."
I poke my head back out to shoot him a withering look. "How about the Shut the Fuck Ups?"
"The Toilet Huggers."
"The Imminent Castrations."
"Yes, with out debut album - Lorena Bobbitt, How Could You."
So I'm pretty happy I read Speechless ahead of this one because I'm not sure I'd have picked that up if I started with this but the reasons are more of my own personal quirks. I can see this being favorite-shelved by someone and not feel judgy towards the reader because I can totally see twenty-something me being all over this. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd feel too old for a YA/NA book but this may just did it.
One last thing, I don't see how Jake's ABBA love as the quirk this book made it to be… in my side of the universe that's not quirky.
That's just going with nature. #fuckyeahABBA