Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: September Girls by Bennett Madison

Title: September Girls

Author: Bennett Madison

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publication Date: May 2013

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone


Synopsis can be found here.
Edelweiss review.

Review:

After his mother leaves, Sam is dragged to the beach by his father and his older brother Jeff. There, he encounters the Girls, numerous beautiful teenage girls who flock to him like mysterious creatures. Sam doesn't understand them- his brother's new girlfriend Kristle, his new friend DeeDee. But there is something magical about these girls. And something dangerous and lonely.

September Girls follows the story of Sam and his summer at the mysterious beach where he meets the Girls. Not one girl, not five girls. Many many girls. All beautiful, lovely, glorious and eh-hem, blond. And they are all after Sam.

There have been many mixed reviews posted so far and I for one really liked it. For real. I did.

It is beautifully written, the words turning over and over in my head giving the entire book a fairy tale and unreal quality. The beach is a mythical place, full of juxtapositions, strong temptations and desires. The book alternates between Sam's point of view and chapters written by the Girls (mermaids) and what they know, or think they know. It reminded me a lot like a Greek chorus, a tragedy, being trapped, seeing the future, and not being able to stop it.

Depending on what you've read before, Sirens and Mermaids are usually talked about as being beautiful women who lure fishermen into the sea to drown them. Or save them. Or both. What I'm saying is that the idea itself of a mermaid, who watches over or kills men at sea, is dark, alluring and already has elements of sexism. (I don't remember a lot of stories about mermen, though they must exist, right?) We forget that the original The Little Mermaid ended quite differently than Ariel and Eric finding true happiness. We forget that HEA are not always when the couple ends up together.

Sam, while maybe not a likeable character, is at least an interesting one.
Through the entire book, he is growing up and away. His mother is gone. He is stuck with a vacant father and sex driven brother. And now he's surrounded by girls who want him, in a way he has never been wanted, with no one to guide him. (And yes, I'm saying no one because even Sam knows not to take his brother Jeff's advice on women.)

DeeDee stands out among the Girls, but even she is watery, hard to grasp. But then again, maybe that is the point. And while others may not like DeeDee's rant about women in the bible, I found it pretty funny and refreshing. Take into account - Here is a mermaid, someone from out of this world, and she is trying to figure out this new culture, custom, environment. And her rant is what she takes away from her reading. The funny thing is that I don't believe she is using the word in a negative or derogatory way. She is being sarcastic and using it as a way to illustrate how the outside world views these women, and how we are taught to view these women. And how, no matter what we do, we are all hoes. And what does that word mean anyway?

Kristle is the other Girl who is in the forefront as Jeff's girlfriend. She's complicated, using her sexuality to obtain her main goal which is not obvious until the end. Does that make her a ho? Using her sexuality to further her agenda? Being in touch with her sexuality? Wanting sex? Men? Using her beauty? Depends on who you talk to. And at the end, does it help her?

This book is all about on what YOU take away from it.

Let's be honest- YA is a hard genre to really nail down. A 13 year old reader is different than a 17 year old reader. Do I think a 13 year old reader should read it? Maybe not?
Though truthfully, I was reading John Irving at 13 years old. (Yes. John Irving is where yours truly read her first sex scene in a book. Thank you World According to Garp.) So I think there are many 13 year olds that can handle that.

While I did find parts of the book to be a bit abrasive, particularly some of the dialogue which seemed forced or out of place, I can't say that the sex or language bothered me overall. I can see how it might offend some people and maybe thought inappropriate for a younger audience, but for me these things just added to the strange mood and tone of the book. These characters are not role models, nor are they supposed to be. 

An interesting and controversial read. It made me think.
The cover is lovely but the fairy tale inside is equally dark and mysterious.

Rating 8 Cookie Worthy

3 comments:

  1. Ooo - I was hoping to snatch this one up at BEA but didn't. I think someday I will definitely check it out because it doesn't fit the normal mold of contemporary YA which is always what I'm on the lookout for.

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    1. When you read it, let me know what you think! I'm dying to talk about it as it's been such a mixed bag of reviews, and sadly I think I'm part of the minority that liked it!

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  2. I got this at BEA and wanted to read it but never got the chance. Plus I mostly heard more bad then good, I'm glad you didn't hate it, and it kind of renews my interest to try it and decide for myself.

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