Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Talk About Those Mean Girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                        My, my, all of a sudden this blog is going into bitch mode.  This is hardly intentional, darlings, but bitchery does figure in Lindsay Lee Johnson's compelling, if flawed first novel,  "The Most Dangerous Place On Earth."

                                         The title is a metaphor for the American suburban high school.  The suburb is Mill Valley, California, and, yes, for those who recall, the famous one-time hit song celebrating it, back in 1970, is mentioned several times.  Though the town now has gone from the quiet, bucolic place the song espoused, to, 47 years later, a place of affluence.

                                          The structure is simple.  It starts out with a Tyler Clementi type tragedy when the characters are in eighth grade, and follows them through high school.  Each is a representative high school stereotype.  The one I related most to was Dave Chu, who is being pushed for Ivy League admissions by his parents, who have no clue their son is not cut out for it.  Now, I did not have his problem; I was more self-aware.  I knew I did not have the science and math chops I needed for this path--eighth grade taught me that!!!!!!!!--so I stayed on the arts and humanities path, where I would excel.  And I never resorted to someone taking my SAT's for me!  If that was happening back in the day, I was clueless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  At least I knew what I was wired for. (Though I regretted  never mastering the math potential I had, but that was due to bad teaching.)  Dave's problem is, he doesn't, and when he gets to college, he is going to crash and burn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                            And his parents will blame him, not themselves.

                                            But this novel is just about Dave.  Nor is it a diatribe against mean girls; the meanest anyone gets is in the opening, leading up to the tragedy.

                                             The author gets the stereotypes and social milieu right.  I guess I was looking for a sense of justice, and when the climactic party happened, I thought this is where the kids will get their comeuppance.  Except they don't.  The central flaw of the novel is that it has no distinct point of view.  It just presents these kids as they are, and when the story is finished, who cares?

                                              This is a shame, because the author is on to a lot of things here, which are never developed.  But, then, this is a first novel.

                                                She can only go up, from here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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