Monday, 3 August 2009

Review - Beige / Cecil Castellucci

Summary - Dad's an aging L.A. punk rocker. Daughter's a buttoned up neat freak. Can this summer be saved?
Now that she's exiled from Canada to sunny Los Angeles, Katy figures she'll bury her nose in a book and ignore the fact that she's spending two weeks with her father - punk name, "The Rat" - a recovered addict and drummer for the infamous band Suck. Even though Katy doesn't want to be there, she won't make a fuss. After all, she is a nice girl, a girl who is quiet and polite, a girl who smiles, a girl who is, well, beige. Or is she?

Review - Beige had been sitting on my shelf for awhile when I read an entry over at Stephanie Kuehnert's where she was absolutely raving about it. That was enough for me...Stephanie can write like a dream and turns out, can recommend like a dream too.

Beige tells the story of conservative and restrained Katy who is sent to stay with her father in LA for the summer. Katy is a complete fish out of water in the grimy world of punk rock, the smell of it particularly permeates through the pages and it allows you to feel as though you are in the world with her. Katy is completely buttoned down, rigid and shut off and as such The Rat's world doesn't really mesh with her standards. Katy is a completely relatable protagonist, she's never been cool or ever been all that into music. This is most likely influenced by her desire and fear of becoming like her parents, both recovered drug addicts. Her need for order and control can be a little distancing at times but it is always justified.

Every character that appears in Castellucci's novel is extreme - whether extreme in their prickliness, obviousness, softness, rigidity or kitschiness - they are all well formed and have unique and sparky interactions with one another. Lake is a character that works as a great foil for Katy, she's the "expected offspring" of a punk rocker but has missed out on the maternal care that Katy has taken for granted. Lake's a cactus wrapped around a pillow with a piece of coal battling her heart for position in her chest cavity. These two rocker babies with diametrically opposed personalities force one another to really confront who they are and their motivations. It's a friendship that is fun, sparky and organic - there are no false notes to be found.

The Rat is a character that really grabs the reader. He's forever trying too hard to win his daughter over. The author takes the great path of not making him compromise himself at any point in his efforts to ingratiate himself into his daughter's affections. He's an immensely flawed man but one with a huge heart and perhaps too sensitive to the world.

Beige is a fast read. You find yourself whipping through the pages to the most satisfying conclusion. It is a conclusion that rejects the need to tie everything up in a cliche ridden, predictable, pretty package. Instead, this coming of age story, which details Katy's personal growth, settles on a complete realistic and satisfying conclusion.

A fantastic start to a (hopefully) long Castellucci reading journey!

Published: March 2009
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Origin: USA

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Anonymous said...

I love this quote: "Lake's a cactus wrapped around a pillow with a piece of coal battling her heart for position in her chest cavity." :P

Beige looks interesting.

ReggieWrites said...

I love the cover!!! I've heard of this book before, but I never checked it out. Now I will! Thanks for the GREAT review!!!

Reggie :-)

simmone said...

cecil's books are fab fab fab! you must read them all . I was so thrilled when she blurbed 'notes from the teenage underground' for me in the states ... she writes little ditties too - you can find them on myspace

Leanne said...

Cecil Castelluci has also written some fantastic graphic novels - The Plain Janes, and Janes In Love. I chased them up after I read Beige, which I also really liked.