Potatoes and Doritoes

Oblivion - Sasha Dawn
’You’re a poet.’
No, I want to say, I am insane.

Po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes.

I’m finding it a little strange reading gripes about this book’s length because I truly felt like I flew through this one quite easily. True, there are a lot of things to complain about this story but between reading a book that makes me feel like pulling my own tooth with a fork versus one that offers something compelling but induces one too many eye-rolls, I’ve learned to pick the nitpicks that I pick on.

A year ago, Reverend Palmer Prescott of the Church of the Holy Promise disappeared with a 12-year old girl. His wife, a self-proclaimed mystic, has been committed to a mental health facility while his sixteen year-old daughter went into County Juvenile Hall. Both of them knows something but neither can remember what happened. To make things more interesting, Callie suffers from graphomania, an obsessive compulsion to write that has been further exacerbated by her father’s vanishing. Each episodic attack somehow figuring as clues in the bigger picture of what happened to the vile man and why she repeatedly wrote ‘I KILLED HIM’ on the walls of their home, the day it all happened.

There’s a psychiatry book in my shelf called Synopsis of Psychiatry which I feel I should probably share with a few authors out there because that’s like a goldmine of psychological issues to burden your characters with. Admittedly, graphomania makes for a disturbingly intriguing jump off point in building a story around. The jarring imagery of nonsensical, visceral and violent words strung together, written on paper, walls, body parts with a red Sharpie is very David Fincher-compatible.

Burn her in an urn. Burn her in an urn. Burn her in an urn.
Crucify, quarter and stone her.

I can hear Trent Reznor wailing in the background but it does read like a Fiddy Cent song, yes? (I definitely read the first line to the beat of In Da Club). There’s even a ’What’s in the box bag?!’ freakout moment to seal the Fincher-fangirl status of anyone who recognises the references. If there was a Best Cinematography for books, Sasha Dawn’s unique perspective is definitely a contender. The lake, the church, The Vagabond Club…there was something drearily foggy and grainy in the way she sets a scene and this served the whole missing-holy-man-who-just-might-be-a-pedophile mystery quite well.

I wish we could’ve just ended things at that. I wish this was purely about a jigsaw puzzle in Callie’s brain with disjointed pieces in the shapes of labyrinths, rosaries, fountains, shovel and rowboats.

Unfortunately, Callie is sixteen, attractive and now living with the Hutches, an affluent family with a pothead of a daughter, Lindsey. Callie loves Lindsey dearly, so much so that she ghost writes poetic, possibly pretentious love letters for her to impress the brooding and mysterious and brooding football player John “with an H” Fogel. We know where this is going right?

He’s staring out the window now, across the murky waters of the bay. He blinks slowly, and when he opens his eyes, he’s looking directly into mine. A surge of energy zaps me - such is the power in his stare. It’s intense. It’s intimate.

So yes, this one pulled a Looky Loo (Insta-Love), a Love Dorito (Cheesy AND Triangular *eyebrow waggle*) and a Friendly Cheeto (cheating on your best friend) all in one go. And because this made absolutely no effort to avoid any of the well-abused Contmeporary Romance tropes, there is also an Elijah Breshock - the troubled boy from Juvie, the occasional fuck buddy, love of her life stand-in. So it’s now a Love Double Dorito, also known in some circles as the Parallelogram Conundrum.

John offers his right hand. “John Fogel.”
Elijah gives my thigh another squeeze before releasing me to shake John’s hand. “Elijah Breshock.”
The two of them remain locked in the gaze, hands firmly grasped, like they’re involved in some sort of showdown.

Wasted opportunity right there to make some Pentagonary Quandary, someone needs to take some notes from Tiffany Reisz. 

It felt thoroughly discordant, how this came across with mature insights and fresh edginess for YA (I thought that argument for YA hookup culture was an unvoiced sentiment so far in this genre) in certain lengths of pages only to indulge into petty cat fights, male posturing and garishly juvenile behavior. Which I suppose can be argued as the perfect, grounding contrast to all the heaviness of the other plot line. But who really wishes for a pretty young heroine with a troubling psychological issue who must choose between a hot flawed guy and a flawed hot guy?

This isn’t a matter of choosing between my best friend and a guy, between my head and my heart; this is about choosing between clarity and clouds.

Yeah, this isn’t my first rodeo with that trope so I’m still gonna call it as I see it.

I found the dynamic between Lindsey and Callie intriguing and well-worth better exploration beyond the petty cat fights and bitch talk. I was quite disappointed with how patronizing this book was in the treatment of Lindsey. As if one’s perspective is less valid and counts for little if you are brought up in a safe environment with loving parents and the comforts of a home and education. There was a certain degree of artistic glamorization of Callie’s psychiatric condition, that has made me share that feeling with rockstars who are not as blue collar as Bruce Springsteen. Pot aside, does Lindsey’s opinion count for less because she’s privileged and her mother is not clinically insane? What kind of shaming is that? Milquetoast-shaming?


I suppose beyond all that cliche-ridden storyline, there was the underlying theme of family - the kind given to you and the kind that you find - but I still can’t help but feel a little empty at the end of reading this one. I thought the mystery was constructed tightly enough but the fact that Callie figured more as a red-herring for her mother in the end, was a bit of a let-down. 

There are books I openly and shamelessly push for my friends to read, books that stay in my mind for days, wondering what the characters are doing right now, as if they’re real people living in a house a few blocks from my own. This is neither but isn’t one I’d openly discourage friends from reading either. It’s bound to satisfy someone in my friends’ list.

It’s just one of those things that you’ll just have to figure out who among yourselves will.

ARC courtesy of EgmontUSA thru Netgalley.