Top positive review
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One of the best books I read this year
on November 22, 2008
I did not expect to like this book; the opening chapter is surprisingly alienating. This is due to the fact that there is so little for a reader to hang onto that resembles anything remotely familiar, and I actually put the book down and read another one after reading that first chapter.
But then I decided to give the book another try, and I'm so glad that I did. The images and emotions evoked merely by the language used is reason enough to read the book. There is always a sense that there is more going on beneath the words on the page than what first appears. The narration of Nita (or Clown Girl) is witty and usually fun to read, and it is this first-person narration that finally drew me in, and once I began caring about what happened to Nita, I was hooked, and willing to accept that this novel is a complete caricature, a representation. It is one of the best-written, original, and satisfying books I have read in a long time, and I recommend it, knowing that the content will not appeal to everyone.
I have one small concern with the way one of the major themes of the novel is presented. Various internal monologues and conversations throughout the book indicate that Nita is coming to terms with the fact that she can make her own choices, that life does not or should not just happen to her.
This idea is presented attractively, if somewhat simplistically. The novel does such a good job of demonstrating (sometimes heavy-handedly) the fallacy of going too far to the opposite extreme-- that some people blame their circumstances and social situations for everything they personally do that is immoral or wrong-- that it ends up ringing somehow slightly false by not acknowledging the role that social life does play in shaping our choices and free will, especially considering the ending. Although, I found the ending and Nita's epiphany extremely empowering, realistically, it is doubtful that it would have occurred if she had not met police officer Jerrod in the opening chapter-- who not only suggested quite strongly several times that she could make different choices, but held himself out as a strong anchor of social support when she was finally ready to do so.
It is difficult to have an option in your range of choices that you are either completely unaware of or do not deem possible. Yet, because the book does not either directly or indirectly acknowledge this, it veers dangerously close to a mentality that, in part, blames victims for their own victimization. Nita is both an empowered actor, and an unfortunate victim, but she is not really given authentic credit for being either.
Despite this intellectual quibble, the book receives my high praise and should be widely read by those who are looking for something a little different.