From the publisher:
Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that’s constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution.
An auto-didact who prefers the education of travel to college, Elsie uses an inheritance to support her as she travels to Paris and Sri Lanka, hoping to accumulate experiences, create connections, and discover a new way to live. Along the way, she meets men and women who challenge and provoke her towards the change she genuinely hopes to find. But in the end, she must still come face-to-face with herself. (304 pages)
My thoughts under the cut! Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the First to Read program
I spent a lot of time soul searching while reading this book. Trying to decide if the way I felt was because I’m actually some sort of hipster about novels, or if it really was as bad as I initially felt it was. My final thoughts are at the end but first
-This book made me laugh. I don’t think it was supposed to though. I’m not entirely sure what it was aiming for. At one point I theorized that the terrible and awkward sentences were supposed to be a metaphor for how bad Elsie’s mental state is when she’s with the Bad Boyfriend. But by the time I reached the end of the book I realized that no, I was reaching. Curious about what I’m talking about? Here are some of the sentences that made me stop and wonder what I had done wrong in life:
“When I got up from my stool to walk to the bathroom, I felt the cotton of my underpants shifting over my buttocks, my asshole tingling and contracting as if I were lying face down in the sun after swimming in icy water.“
“He was pale and lanky with faintly humped shoulders, but his voice made him seem like he tossed pianos for fun.”
“I opened my mouth wide, squeezed my eyes into old, hard vaginas sewed up tight.”
-I wish I could say the hilarious awkward sentences kept up but sadly they disappeared about a hundred pages in and it became a long, painful trudge through the rest of the book.
-Here’s the thing, I’m perfectly down for Finding Yourself novels, but usually we start out with a character who you can sympathize with or for. Elsie? Starts out as an annoying creature and only devolves into a case of “oh my god I am so embarrassed that someone thought this was a good character.” Also, I went over sixty pages before I found out what her name was. But Ana, it’s right there in the publisher’s blurb. Yes, it is. But I literally could not find it in myself enough to care to look it up. That’s what this book did to me.
-The blurb leads me to believe a rich relative dies or something and that’s where Elsie’s funding comes from. The version I read, at least, is not that at all. Elsie whines and bemoans her lack of funding every third page but here’s the thing: Her trips to Paris and Sri Lanka? Are not on an inheritance, it is literally Daddy’s money because he wants baby girl to be happy. She uproots whenever the fancy strikes her, relocates to California, New York, and back to California and takes two trips to Sri Lanka to feel better about her middle class whiteness. I wish I were joking about those last couple of words.
-Elsie has the worst case of white savior syndrome I have ever encountered in a fictional character. She vacations in third world countries to make herself feel good and to be able to go “wow, my life is kind of shit but it’s not this bad!”
-I read somewhere that your novel should always be about the most interesting character, or something along those lines. Elsie is far from the most interesting, she isn’t even interesting. She’s entitled and whiny, persecuting other American travelers for doing the exact same thing she is. Elsie “is not like other girls” and all that really means is I want to slap her silly.
-The actual interesting character, a young Sri Lanka woman named Suriya? Give me her novel, give me everything about her instead. She was too good for Elsie (who, by the way, was “friends” with her, in the pitying well off white person patting the destitute brown person affectionately on the head way) Instead, Suriya is an accessory to this steaming pile of crap, and while it could have been good- Elsie could have learned a lot from Suriya and grown and matured as a person, could have allowed her to care about someone other than herself. Instead, everything that happened to Suriya became a “how does this effect me, Elsie, the poor rich white girl.”
-I’m supposed to believe that this reckless, self centered, dramasaurus-rex of a human is going back to California to work in the same small town of her “abusive” ex but she’s totally done with him. She literally moved across the country to get away from him and ended up calling him and begging him to come see her in new York
-You noticed how I put abusive in quotations I see. That is because I sincerely did not buy him as abusive. Shitty human, yes. But as far as I could see Elsie and him, Jared I think, were caustic together. She instigated just as many if not more issues than he did.
-May every deity help you if you believe in equality of the sexes because this book will knock your ass back to 1950. Elsie constantly needs a man in her life to tell her what to do and how to behave, her conscience takes on the voice of a man. Elsie takes every opportunity presented to belittle and degrade other women in the privacy of her head-space.
-None of these things would necessarily be an issue if there was some sort of closure, some sign that she actually has grown as a human but no. It literally ends with her going back to the same “dead end” job that she started with.
The Bottom Line
I was sad that this was a digital copy because I sincerely wanted to set it on fire. Honestly, I had more notes to discuss but one of the pages got lost and I couldn’t even be mad. I’m convinced my backpack ate it in self defense of escaping this vitrol.
Also, I kept calling her Elsa in my head, which would have been a VASTLY more entertaining novel.