Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Review: Something Wicked by Lesley Anne Cowan
by Lesley Anne Cowan
Release Date: June 1, 2010
2010 Penguin Group
Softcover Edition; 224 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Penguin
5 / 5 Stars
Melissa's most recent troubles stem from a secret: her twenty-eight year-old boyfriend, Michael, has just broken up with her. Though the relationship is clearly over, Melissa clings to the memories, riding a relentless wave of hope and disappointment. Meaningless sexual escapades, drunken nights, and drug-induced blackouts help her cope with heartbreak, but her pain goes much deeper than unrequited teenage love. Her insight, sense of humour, optimism, and sheer determination prove to be saving graces, as is her ability to find solace in the Greek myths she's learned about in Grade 10 English class. And in the end, it is Melissa's mother who proves to be the real victim of tragedy and Melissa who must save her.
Something Wicked is a tough, gritty look at a young girl's life as she descends into a world of sex, drugs, alcohol, and self-destruction. To say I was completely hooked from the beginning is an understatement; I went way beyond that, even underlining sentences that struck me personally, breaking my hard-and-fast rule of never bending corners in my books or highlighting my pages. But this gritty look at Melissa's life was also inspiring, full of hope, full of self-deprecating humour, that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Melissa is an amazing, intriguing, complicated character. As she spirals out of control in her life, and I followed her downward spiral, I found myself cringing and hoping she wouldn't do some of the things she did, knowing she would do them. At the same time, she always had this personal set of morals she never let herself forget. She broke into people's homes to let her girlfriend use the washroom, but under no circumstances would she steal anything from that house. As you followed her logic through the whole scene and understood why, it made sense. It was a strange set of morals, but she had them nonetheless. And although I didn't like what she did, I admired her for those morals.
Melissa often used Greek mythology to describe a lot of her actions and reasons for why she did them. If you are not familiar with Greek mythology, you might have a harder time understanding her reasoning or her thinking, but I have studied the myths so I understood what was going on. The comparisons were very apt and it actually made me understand her a little better. I really enjoyed the comparison to Sisyphus and having to do things over and over again, with no hope; that is the real tragedy of many stories we hear of young people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Melissa sees herself as Sisyphus and until she can remove herself from that cycle, she can have no hope of helping herself get better. It's a vicious circle.
It's Ms. Cowan's literary style that really makes this novel exemplary. She makes Melissa's voice amazingly believable, almost haunting in a way, so that when you are finished you can't stop thinking about her and those who are in her position. You can feel the pain, the hurt, the emotion, the sentiment, the feeling behind that voice and it's what captures you right from the beginning. The figurative language also captures your attention. One of my favourite quotes is, "Sometimes a door is just a door. Other times a door is the partition between two things. Like a past and future. A good choice and a mistake. Your life now and your life after. Thing is, with a door, you pretty much have to walk through it. You pretty much don't have a choice." I loved her sense of humour and how she dealt with all of the situations and visits to counselors and avoiding dealing with her inner conflicts. It was touching, but frightening all at the same time.
Something Wicked is a wonderful, gritty, intriguing novel. It's not a novel for the tenderhearted who are looking for a fairytale ending, but it tells the truth about those who succumb to a world of drugs, sex, and alcohol addiction and are trying to end a vicious cycle of abuse, because they know death only awaits them. Some may find this book terrifying because they may see Melissa in themselves and that may frighten them. I found this novel absolutely fascinating, and although I wanted to have the great ending, I was still nonetheless satisfied as this one is realistic and deals with the truth. I am looking forward to many more novels by this author.
Lesley Anne Cowan's first novel, As She Grows, was shortlisted for the 2001 Chapters/Robertson Davies First Novel Contest.