Friday, May 27, 2011
Review: My Not-So-Still Life by Liz Gallagher
Artistically talented and expressive Vanessa can’t wait to grow up, can’t wait until she’s old enough to leave her town and really live. Her current canvas is her body and her town, but she wants to get out there and have a purpose with her art. Vanessa’s desire to be older than her years causes a rift between her and her two best friends, Nick and Holly, and leads her to a job at her favorite art store along Oscar, Maye, and James, who seem to have the grown-up coolness Vanessa wants to be. What does it really mean to be grown up, though?
I read Liz Gallagher’s first book, The Opposite of Invisible, and fell in love with her sparse but powerful and relatable prose. Therefore, I went into Liz’s second book, MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE, with great anticipation. Perhaps a little too much—for while MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE is a solid addition to the YA contemporary genre, it didn’t have the lasting emotional impact I had found in The Opposite of Invisible.
Given a few allowances, I think that Vanessa is a very relatable protagonist. She’s an artist, but her story doesn’t really revolve around art (which in fact was a little quibble I had with the book, the lack of depth the art aspect had). Instead, Vanessa struggles with the common adolescent desire to have more, to be more than the typical high school life. Vanessa is a warm-hearted girl: she has a great relationship with her family, which I appreciated, and she means well for her friends. While her problems with her friends arise from her trying to push what she feels is right onto their situations, I have no doubt that she is well-intentioned and loving. She wants the future to be now, and what teenager can really fault her for that?
My biggest disappointment in MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE was that I guess I had wanted or expected…well, more. And by that I don’t mean page-wise: at less than 200 pages, MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE still does a good job with character development. But for a girl who dreams of going out there and actually living, Vanessa’s troubles feel disappointingly small, easily resolved, even a little contrived. I had expected her to undergo a greater sort of revelation, but that was not what ended up happening.
MY NOT-SO-STILL LIFE is good for a quick read when you’re in between two heavier books. It didn’t resonate as well as The Opposite of Invisible did for me, but I’m still interested in what Liz Gallagher has for us next.
Cover discussion: I hate this cover. It's beyond merely childish--it's tacky. Why is it that artistry or quirkiness in characters cannot be expressed on covers except through clownlike depictions?
Wendy Lamb Books / May 10, 2011 / Hardcover / 192pp. / $15.99
Copy borrowed from Doylestown Bookshop's Advance Reader Program.