Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Carrie Pilby - Caren Lissner

Summary:  Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby's To-Do List

1.  List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)

2.  Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)

3.  Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)

4.  Tell someone you care (your therapist doesn't count!)

5.  Celebrate New Year's (with OTHER PEOPLE!)

Seriously?  Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City.  She's sick of trying to be like everybody else.  She isn't!  But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself--and agrees to try.

Suddenly the world doesn't seem so bad.  But is prodigy Carrie really going to dumb things down just to fit in?  (Summary from book - Image from barnesandnoble.com - Book given free for review)

My Review: Carrie Pilby, with her quirky inaccessibility and extreme social awkwardness, is the literal description me in high school – only not that smart. I started out this book laughing and over identifying like you would not believe. Carries dry humor and sarcastic personality were amusing and, at first, all I needed to declare my love for the book. Carrie lives the life of a 19-year-old hermit and, although burdened and blessed with an overwhelming intellect, she has difficulty processing or taking part in a world where people do stupid things that hurt themselves or others. She’d rather just stay in bed. However, in pursuit of social acceptance, or at least an understanding of social behavior, Carrie emerges from her insular world and sets out to change herself.

While the ultimate message of the book is uplifting, the book in its entirety was not. Eventually Carrie concludes (yes, a bit of a spoiler here) that you can still be yourself and hold to your standards in a frighteningly amoral world, but she takes a excruciatingly long time to come to that conclusion. (end of spoiler) For the majority of the book, Carrie forces herself to experience the real world in ways that would terrify most parents. Many secondary characters give impressive monologues on why she should partake of their lifestyle, and occasionally she does with varying degrees of trepidation. An older reader might grasp the intricacies of this plot, but I worry that a younger reader would miss the underlying significance of her struggle and would buy into what these characters were selling in regards to underage drinking, illicit drug use, and casual sex. Also, Carrie’s past, and only, sexual relationship was with a much older man when she was underage. While this relationship fed into the reasons behind Carrie's reclusive behavior, its presence, in what I felt was being sold as a light-hearted teen novel, was troubling. I loved Carrie’s personality (and the author’s ability to write it), but felt that Carrie’s advanced intellect set the subject matter slightly above its young adult classification, regardless of its bubble-gum cover art.

When I picked up Carrie Pilby I expected a light and humorous search for self-worth, identity, and friendship. What I got was far different, and a little disappointing. After a while, Carrie’s musings over moral relativism lost their shine and her attempts to establish a lasting relationship with anyone started to chafe, and I just couldn’t love her enough to be completely invested in the book. I finally had to force myself to finish it.

*Sigh*

My Rating: 2.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This is one of those modern teen novels that brings in pretty much everything you don’t want your young kid up to –sex, drinking, drugs, etc. While Carrie always approaches both of these with her own set of ethics and moral standards, she does tend towards experimentation in pursuit of greater understanding, etc. There is infrequent swearing and sporatic discussion of sexual matters.

Sum it up: The quasi-literal definition of “do not judge a book by its cover.”

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