Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Imperfect Birds | by: Anne Lamott

Imperfect Birds is the third book of Anne Lamott's contemporary Rosie Ferguson series, which I have not read with the exception of this latest installment. (It's one of those series you an jump in at any time.) I don't think I would have ever picked this up (or even knew it existed) if it wasn't required for one of my university classes which examines adolescent feelings and behavior even though Imperfect Birds is technically an adult book, for it tells the story of teenage Rosie as well as that of her parents while she spirals out of control. Rosie lies, steals, and takes drugs - and she is able to manipulate her mother Elizabeth for much of the ride. Elizabeth must confront some of her own emotional problems and find a way to stand up to her daughter before it's too late.

Imperfect Birds tries to tackle some big topics. Much like with any dramatic soap opera, it'll hold your attention whether you like it or not... The only problem is that it's just not very good. It's odd, really: Once in a while Lamott will have a line that I find exceptionally creative and truthful, but a number of my issues stemmed from the way it was written, the ways she chooses to tell the story. Much of the dialogue felt unrealistically descriptive, and once in a while she'd try to throw in teenage slang and it just didn't reflect how teens talk. It was awkward. (To provide a comparison, I think John Green replicates teen slang perfectly.) Plus, some descriptions in general were just awkward.

One thing I noticed right away is that there is no strategic reveal of character traits - we are told what each and every character is like from the get-go, leaving readers with little to figure out on our own and giving us a very slow start. (I feel like this would have been even more irritating if I read the previous books in the series.) The characters are not likable in any sense, but they aren't supposed to be. Unfortunately, though, it makes them easier to be frustrated with them than sympathetic - especially since I couldn't relate to much of any of them. They're all so troubled in their own ways, and as they mix and mingle they each become even more troubled. There's a lot of drama within these pages. But it also became apparent as I was reading that Lamott likes writing about little moments. This would be fine if it wasn't all she liked to write. Some of the biggest events of the plot that would surely contain a lot of drama are glossed over, skipped... I don't think I've ever read a book where this happened regularly.

The ending does not have the clearest of resolutions, which generally does not bother me as we are left with hopeful clues that Rosie will be okay with time. (Most of the time when books don't have clear resolutions we can figure it out or know enough to sort of formulate a couple different potential endings anyway.) However... this book just ended so abruptly. I don't mind it in terms of the resolution itself and wondering what may happen, but the exact placement just felt so off, like she would have at least needed a couple more paragraphs. It felt as though the story dropped off in the middle of a moment, but not in a strategic way at all.

Overall I just didn't feel like Imperfect Birds was very good. While it deals with some tough topics and there's enough overall drama to stay interested, the characters and the execution of the story just didn't win me over in the slightest.

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