Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Absolutely Maybe, by Lisa Yee

Maybelline (or "Maybe" as her friends call her) has plenty of trouble relating to her beauty pageant mother, but the final straw happens when her Mom's boyfriend tries to rape her. Tossed out of the house by her suspicious mother, Maybe runs away to California with her two friends Ted (a flamboyant Thai-American) and Daniel (aka "Hollywood"). Hollywood is heading to LA anyway to pursue his dream of making award-winning documentary film and Tim quickly lands a job taking care of an aging movie actress. Maybe wants to find her biological father, who she believes is living somewhere in Southern California now. Along the way, she has to find herself as well.

The publisher claims this book is intended for 9-12 year olds. I don't buy that. Maybe 9th-12th graders, but the themes of this story (rape, homosexuality, abandonment, etc.) are pretty dark, no matter how comedic the story overall is. And that is my overall problem with this book. It has some very funny parts, but it mostly glances over the issues and ignores the ramifications of the actions it portrays. Other reviewers have accused the book of being unrealistic, but that doesn't quite capture the problem. At points, the book is quite realistic, but it's just as if Yee doesn't really want us to take the issues seriously (and if so, why bring them up?).

The story moves along at a good clip, but I found the characters a bit annoying and grating. Maybe and her friends (Ted and Hollywood) are extremely self-centered. Its supposed to add to the comedy, but mostly it fell flat for me -- I just wanted them to shut up. Jess, the girl who runs her own taco truck, is the most interesting character but mostly seemed borrowed from America Ferrera's character in Real Women Have Curves.

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