Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Art of Breaking Things, by Laura Sibson

Skye is a promising young artist, probably on her way to a full-ride at art school, but she's grown indifferent to her success.  Getting high with her best friend Ben, she's drifted through school a party girl.  But two things startle her indifference:  Ben gets busted for drugs and her mother's ex-boyfriend Dan returns to their life.

Years ago, when Skye was ten, Dan molested her during a family camping trip.  Her oblivious mother never acknowledged the incident and Skye withdrew into drugs (the party girl was in fact just self-medicating).  She could manage things when Mom was no longer seeing Dan, but now Mom's talking about marrying him!  Skye can't deal. Especially not when she catches Dan grooming her younger sister Emma.

I'll get my big complaint about the story off my chest first:  a plot that rests precariously on a misunderstanding.  I hate hate hate when authors set up these entirely artificial conflicts.  The trauma and its extension over seven years rest entirely on Skye and her mother unwilling to find a way to communicate.  Given how wonderfully they do so in the end, I'm simply not buying it.  I get that trauma can silence a victim, but this is just made up.  And made up for the sole purpose of creating a story.

That complaint aside, I actually thought this was a well-written book.  The character relationships between Skye and her BFF Luisa, between Skye and her sister Emma, and all the little relationships with casual friends were complex, nuanced, and realistic.  I didn't find much of a flame in Skye and Ben's romance/friendship, but I also didn't find it an important part of the story (despite its placement front and center).  Skye herself is a bit of a screw up and makes some amazingly bad choices, but that mostly illustrates the corrosive nature of the trauma she's carry with her and she actually comes across as pretty tough.  Finally, the importance of art in her life felt very organic to her character and not just something tossed in.  Sibson shows some great writing and I look forward to her next novel.

No comments: