Monday, October 19, 2009
Review: My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
Rating: 3 out of 5
Sisters Roz and Eva used to be close, until cheerleading, competition over school theater roles, and boys drove them apart. Now, however, Roz believes she has a chance to win Eva back: some evidence supports Roz’s hypothesis that Eva is a lesbian who has trouble admitting it, even to herself. In an attempt to make Eva more comfortable with coming out, Roz declares herself a lesbian, right as the drama club begins rehearsing for a Shakespearean play.
Little does Roz realize the consequences that would result from her announcement. As she and her friends/fellow drama geeks exchange insults and pranks, Roz realizes that the application of “labels” is more complicated than she thought, and she may be quite blind to the workings of the human heart.
MY INVENTED LIFE is a spunky and witty GLBTQ book that deals with the fluidity of sexual identity, and the complexities of placing labels on people. The fantastic narrative voice and the unique premise will make this a delightful read for nearly anyone.
This book’s strongest point is its protagonist. Roz is a feisty girl with a good blend of sass, passion, and self-delusions. Her witty, laugh-out-loud narration—always direct, never dully over-eloquent—will draw you into the story even if you may cringe at some of her behavior and want to shake some insight into her. For the most part, the secondary characters are also well-drawn: they’re people with endearing quirks, people who you’d like to hang out with. They’re complicated and funny, occasionally bitchy and selfish. In other words, they could’ve been our high school friends.
Because MY INVENTED LIFE is so energetic and fast-paced, it occasionally runs the risk of getting annoying. Every once in a while I felt like I had gotten too much of Roz’s snarky mentality, and her secret desires—her invented life—sometimes gets repetitive, in an “okay we get it already” way. Similarly, I had trouble understand the sisterly dynamic between Roz and Eva. Sibling relationships are especially difficult to write about, since they contain the requisite family love as well as voluntary platonic devotion, and I felt that Roz and Eva’s relationship—particularly Roz’s almost grovel-like approach to her sister—pinged around in all directions in a way that jarred me and made me the slightest bit skeptical of the believability of their relationship.
That being said, MY INVENTED LIFE is a fresh approach to homosexuality. In this story, the characters’ sexual orientations are rather fluid, defying categorization. You can never completely say that this one’s a lesbian, that one’s totally gay, and so on and so forth. This is admirable because labels regarding sexual orientation are hardly ever direct in real life: there is a huge amount of gray area between heterosexuality and homosexuality, an area that many people unknowingly dwell in. I thought that MY INVENTED LIFE did an exceptional job of capturing the complexities of labels; readers will think twice about when it means to assign people to strict categories.
All in all, readers can take MY INVENTED LIFE at two levels. It can be read as a witty romp through the intertwined lives of theater geeks, or one can consider the usage and flexibility of homosexuality in the story. Either way, it makes for a satisfying read without being offensive to any kind of readers.
Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky Always Hears Me, and the Hills Don't Mind)
Dale Peck (Sprout)
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2 out of 5 - I'm not too keen on it. It's a closeup of two rather scary-looking girls with disturbing expressions on their faces, along with a title font that doesn't match what I believe is Roz's personality. Oh well. Hopefully others will be able to look beyond the cover for a truly good read.
Henry Holt & Co. / Sept. 29, 2009 / Hardcover / $17.99
Thank you so much, Lauren, for offering me your book for review!