Keek’s life was totally perfect.
Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right. (from Goodreads)
After reading an interview with Arlaina Tibensky on The Contemps, I impulse bought And Then Things Fall Apart (thank you Kindle).
It was love at first word. Not since I encountered Francesca Spinelli have I so instantly been hooked by a character's voice (I know regular readers, I know!).
Keek is fabulous, I just loved her. Her voice lunges out of the book, grabs hold of you, and keeps hold, long after the last word is read. Arlaina Tibensky does a wonderful job of making her just the right side of self absorbed and angsty. She's realistic, but not annoying. She's also funny and confused, and, like all my favourite characters a bit of a mess.
As she poured out her story and her opinions, I laughed, sympathized, and laughed some more. Half way through I did have a flicker of worry that there was no way the second half could be as good.
Dear reader (as Keek would say) it absolutely was.
As her health returns Keek has more interactions with the outside world, but this book remains low on dialogue, and high on retelling and reflection. Which is not a combination I normally fall for, but here it is done perfectly.
I don't think it's for everyone, I'm sad to say. The lack of dialogue, the frank musings on sex and virginity, and the very frequent references to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath may not be to all readers tastes. For me though it was absolutely wonderful. I adored every second I spent in Keek's head. I wish I'd known her when I was fifteen.
And Then Things Fall Apart has a guaranteed place in my top ten of the year, it is just sofa king* good.
And because the best books speak for themselves here are two of my favouirte quotes.
Reading makes me feel like I've lived a thousand lives in addition to my own. Characters in books really stick around for me. You know cartoon cells, the translucent sheets they draw on to make cartoons? Every time I read a book, especially one that grabs my guts, there is another translucent layer added to what makes me me. Each layer is saturated in color and signed by the artist.
Getting all emotionally wrapped up in made-up people's lives gives me a chance to take a break from my own life, to stretch my legs under warm water, close my eyes, and inhale until I can think straight.
Finally, how absolutely gorgeous is the cover. I, of course, how need a hard copy too. It makes me want to do all my writing on a typewriter, or you know have one around for aesthetic purposes, there would be too much typex required if I used a typewriter.
* say it fast. It took me about thirty pages and then it clicked