Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Anthropology of an American Girl

I just finished Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann.  At first I really liked it, but then... Well, if you're interested in reading it, I don't know how to discuss my feelings on it without spoilers, so be warned.

It begins when Eveline is a senior in high school.  Her best friend Kate has moved in with her, as Kate's mother has died from cancer.  Eveline's boyfriend Jack has just returned from a summer away.  Eveline and Jack's relationship felt real to me.  Jack felt real.  An angry young man, a musician, intelligent, isolated in his rich suburban family.  He had insight about the world and yet was also a hypocrite in some ways, cruel at times.  I thought I could've gone to high school with him.

And then there's a new temporary drama instructor, Harrison Rourke.  Eveline falls for Rourke immediately.  I thought she was going to end up embarrassed.  All the signs that Rourke was interested seemed like they could also be interpreted as casual friendliness.  And then after graduation, at a party, she sees him.  They kiss.  They spend the summer together.  She's in love.

It didn't feel real to me.  Rourke seemed like a blank.  Why did she love him? Because he was handsome and intense?

And THEN it's fall.  She's at college at NYU, her and Rourke are over, and she's dating Rourke's rich friend Mark.  Then she's living with Mark, still mourning the end of her relationship with Rourke.  Eventually it becomes clear that she'd gotten pregnant and had a miscarriage, but her and Rourke were already over at that time.  Mark seems like a jerk, and Eveline doesn't love him.  She says she's with him because she's given up on things, because of Rourke.  Or something.

I had a hard time understanding her motives in the second half.  As a high schooler, she was so vivid, an artist in a bohemian family, trying to deal with her best friend's mom's death, with feelings for someone besides her boyfriend, with life.  And then after Rourke, she was a mystery.  WHY not contact Rourke and talk to him? WHY decide to stay with Mark?  Another thing that made it a little tough to follow was the sheer volume of characters.  It was hard to keep track of people.

Eventually their paths cross again, and misunderstandings are put right, and at the very end of the novel, she leaves Mark for Rourke.  But I feel like this book could've been so much better.

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