Monday, March 17, 2008

Mock Printz: Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne

Title: Absolute Brightness
Author: James Lecesne
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780061256271
Starred review in: Kliatt, PW

Copied from my blog:

The plot: In Neptune, New Jersey, Phoebe Hertle's quiet, literary, relatively normal life is shaken up by the arrival of her flamboyant cousin Leonard. Leonard is anything but normal and for some time, Phoebe can't stand to be around him. Leonard's comfort in himself, however, inspires the women of the town of Neptune to be their more stylish selves. Phoebe gets used to Leonard's colorful ways until the day he disappears. Weeks later his body is found in a nearby lake, and Neptune's biggest murder mystery unfolds.

Why the book didn't work: It's too long. I know that sounds like a stupid reason for the book's failures, but that's the short of it. There are so many plotlines that get tangled and ultimately forgotten that the story as a whole is unsatisfying at the end. The language is monotonous and stilted and Phoebe seems so dispassionate, so distanced from herself and the situations around her that the reader has a difficult time caring about her or anyone else in her life. The author is trying to squeeze in too many lessons about tolerance and yes, it is possible to feel squeezed in a 400+ page book. Better editing and pacing, and snipping of a few plotlines, could have improved this book a lot.

Sometimes it's the small details that are the most bothersome, so to me this was the most badly memorable moment of the book.

Page 210: When someone saw Dad pumping gas into Chrissie's Honda Civic down at the Mobil station on Division Street, Mom held to the idea that her husband was just being a Good Samaritan.

Because everyone who lives here can't pump your own gas in New Jersey. (And no, Phoebe's dad does not work at a gas station.)

The other thing I found odd were the blurbs on the back of the book from Eve Ensler, Michael Cunningham, Armistead Maupin, and Duncan Sheik. All brilliant minds in their own right, yes, but none of them are known for writing books/plays/movies aimed at a YA audience. I wonder why these particular people were asked to blurb the book.


Clearly, I disagree with PW. But who else has read this. Any thoughts?

1 comment:

BookWyrm said...

I've read it and I have to agree with you. Too long, not a great portrayal of the NJ Coast, and just boring.

This meandering narrative set in a NJ shore town left me as conflicted as the reviews I've seen of it. In one journal (PW) it received a glowing starred review for use of details to build the world and plant clues which are important later. The other journal (Kirkus) was not so impressed with the work and describes the narrator as forgettable. Personally, I think I fall somewhere in between. When I started this novel, the meandering tangent filled narrative distracted me and was slightly annoying, but both the style and the characters grew on me. It became sort of a conversation or storytelling session with some of the more self absorbed and less focused friends I have. The tangents, the details that seem to have no meaning then suddenly are important 20-30-80 pages later were a bit annoying. There were spots in the book I had problems with: Deirdre's 11th hour speech did seem out of character, but then she really had little to no character. She could have been edited out, or aged a year or two and sent to college, or whatever. She, like the absent Dad, didn't seem like part of Phoebe's life. Other relationships seem disconnected and surface, but suddenly had deep meaning to Phoebe later in the book. I'd have been perfectly happy with this novel if it ended before Phoebe got the notebook from Mrs. K. Or at least before she opened it.