Friday, April 12, 2013

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, by Julie Schumacher

When Adrienne injures her knee right before the summer begins, her plans to go canoeing with her best friend are ruined.  Instead, she's stuck moping around the house or spending time at the pool, bored out of her mind.  Seeing this, her mother gets the idea of forming a mother-daughter book discussion group along with three of her friends.  The problem with this is two-fold:  book clubs aren't very cool when you're seventeen and none of the daughters like each other.

In addition to Adrienne, there's rich and popular CeeCee who won't crack a book, Jill is unsociable and distrusts CeeCee, and then there's weird and mysterious Wallace (who none of them can figure out).  They don't like their situation, but the girls are basically stuck with each other.  So, together, they try to make sense of a series of classic books, and figure each other along the way.

The story has potential and the blurb on the book jacket is a big draw, but ultimately this story falls flat (or, maybe better said, never comes together in the first place).  Schumacher has high ambitions, peppering the story with analogies to the classic books the girls are reading.  But what should have been the greatest strength of the book -- the mismatching personalities of the girls themselves -- never quite develops.  Instead, we get a confusing series of vignettes and subplots that fail to gel.  The characters are smart and intelligent (both child and adult), but ultimately not interesting to drive a story that ought to be about the girls themselves.

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