Monday, December 30, 2013

The Suburban Strange, by Nathan Kotecki

At the start of her sophomore year, Celia (like so many heroines of YA novels) is something of a wallflower at Suburban High.  But, out of the blue, an uber-stylish clique of kids called "the Rosary" adopt her.  She gets a complete life makeover - changing her hair, her clothes, and her social circle.  It is a fantasy come true for so many heroines of YA novels.  And finnaly, like far too many heroines of YA novels, she discovers the alleged artistic superiority of obscure New Wave bands from the Eighties (more on that later).

But meanwhile at school, things are turning darker that Celia's new outfits.  Girls are suffering an unusually large number of freak near-fatal accidents -- always on the day before their sixteenth birthdays.  It doesn't matter if they stay home or come to school.  In fact, the only thing that seems to protect some girls is losing their virginity.  Celia and her chemistry lab partner Mariette don't consider that to be an option.  They have a theory about what is causing the accident, and have to move cautiously but purposely towards a solution before their own birthdays come!

It's all over the place story-wise, but actually a nice original story with supernatural themes but an adolescent sensibility (how would you know that black magic was afoot?  why, what else would explain why everyone is failing chemistry?).  The book is long and really has a few too many moving parts, but it comes together in the end.  And while Kotecki is a clumsy writer (particular at the start of nearly every chapter), the creativity and the pace cover his sins.  That's a mixed review, but I enjoyed it.

Most of all, what bothered me was that way overused fiction that today's coolest kids would listen to their parents' alternative music.  I realize that writers have to write about what they know and that few of them can be bothered to research contemporary music, but get real!  Even though I am a child of the 80s myself, I can assure you that the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cure are not gods.  And old dudes trying to claim that they are are simply pathetic!

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