Monday, August 3, 2009

Undiscovered Gyrl

Undiscovered Gyrl is my latest venture into Amazon's "Vine" Program whereby I get to pick selections from a list of advanced reader's copies. I actually finished reading it last Thursday night but haven't had the time to write about it until now.

I am an eclectic reader for the most part, trying novels from just about all genres but I do tend to spend my time with the more traditional genres such as mystery, science fiction, westerns, fantasy, thrillers, etc. I've often felt my straight "fiction" reading was a bit lacking; i.e. contemporary fiction with normal everyday people as the main characters. So I decided to take a chance with this "Vine" opportunity. I can comfortably say that Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett fits that description very well.

This is the story about a 17 year old girl (she turns 18 during the course of the novel) who blogs about her life. In fact the entire book consists of her blog entries. Due to the anonymity of the internet, bloggers can be extremely truthful when writing about their innermost thoughts and emotions. Such is the case here. The protagonist, Katie Kampenfelt (she is quick to point out that this is not her real name) has chosen to defer college for a year until she can get her head straight. Her blogs cover almost a year of real time and provide fascinating insights to her life. And, indeed, her life is not pretty. She is sexually promiscuous with numerous partners, an abuser of drugs and alcohol, and emotionally scarred. Just how she came to be that way is masterfully revealed over the course of the book. The author seems able to really, truly get inside the protagonist's head. I was very surprised to learn that the author is actually male, so keen are his insight's into this girl's life. And since I have a daughter that is only about a year older than Katie, and I see her friends all the time, I can attest to just how real the language and expressions are in this novel.

Despite the darkness of Katie's life and the stresses she endures, this is a remarkably funny book as well. Her day-to-day descriptions of the people she interacts with are often hillarious. It's a careful balance for the horror of her reality. In some ways, this book is like a reality TV show. It's very realistic and yet at the same time, it seems a little bit too contrived. While it was an easy book to get into, and I definitely wanted to keep reading to see what was going to happen next, it was sort of like watching a train wreck. I grew frustrated with the way Katie was offered help time and again only for her to give up or ignore the advice all together. For those looking for a nicely tied-up happy ending, keep looking. I actually felt a bit cheated at the end because of the way the author chose to wrap it up. It's almost as if he wrote himself into a corner and couldn't find a way out. Perhaps that was his intent...just as in real life, there are not necessarily happy endings or at least not the ending you want. But then again, I am not a fan of the "Lady or the Tiger" style of ending.

It's funny that I followed up the reading of this book with reading another in Stephen King's Skeleton Crew short story collection...also told in the same manner. "Survivor Type" is about a disgraced surgeon who has been shipwrecked while transporting heroin. The story is actually his diary of his experiences as he tries to survive his ordeal. While hunting a bird, he breaks his ankle and is forced to amputate it several days later, using the heroin as anesthesia. Due to starvation he is forced to amputate more and more body parts and eat them just to survive. By the end he is so strung out on heroin that it is hard to follow his thoughts but we come to understand he has nothing left below the waist and has no ears. The journal stops as he cuts off his left hand and begins to nibble the fingers. OK, this is undoubtedly the most horrific entry in the collection thus far. Just the thought of this is enough to creep me out but since I read it so soon after the Undiscovered Gyrl book, it was doubly troubling. Masterfully done...but troubling.

Next up...I really need something less "real" or "horrific" so I have begun The Jaguar Knights, a hopefully lighter-themed fantasy novel.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire