Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ditched by Robin Mellom

Pub date: January 10, 2012.

High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.

Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.

Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.

And then ditched her.

Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together -- stain by stain on her thrift-store dress -- exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...

But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.

Well, I will say I liked the voice. Mellom carried it off with a quirkiness that didn't feel contrived or disingenuous to the character. That voice alone could have carried the story without the ridiculous TV sitcom-like execution of the plot itself shoving the story ahead with dangling tease after dangling tease after dangling tease. That voice, in my opinion, was quite frankly fantastic. It would have been enough. It alone would have made all of the wacky elements that happened in Justina's night seem a little more genuine. It alone would have made Justina feel more real.

Instead the motivating factor of the plot was the execution of the story. Told in twelve and a half minute segments with convenience store commercial interruptions thrown in, it felt like the author didn't trust the story enough to let it tell itself. Instead information was dangled in front of me and the only way to get it was to read the next chapter. Was it an effective method to get me to read on? Absolutely. Goddamn it, I wanted to know what happened. It doesn't mean it wasn't a cheap tactic.

From the beginning you know Justina's night was filled with epic fail. This is not new information. The story starts at the end and is then told from the beginning (see bad sitcom moment above). You know it ends bad. What you don't know are the details and instead of just coming out with it, the story's dragged out as long as humanly possible, with each chapter ending on the edge of a cliff. This story-telling tactic made me irrationally angry, simply because it's such a cheap tactic. The story could have actually been told from the beginning, as Justina lived it and, personally, I think it would have been so much better. It wouldn't have felt like a knock-off of Ferris Beuller's Day Off after being bastardized by Fox. Or enter your choice of outrageous teen movie. So yeah. It's one thing to read a book to find out what happens. That's usually why we read them. But when you already know what happens and reading the book feels like being pecked to death by a chicken, waiting for the story to unfold can become ingratiating.

Not to mention the events that happened fell so far beyond by suspension of disbelief that it stopped being entertaining (see above re: outrageous teen movie). You remember those teen magazines, like Cosmo Girl, Teen People and whatever and they had those write-in columns for embarrassing moments? And they were so ridiculously outrageous that there's no way they could be true (and I remember one editor actually ranking on them for it)? Well shove a bunch of those together and you'll get this plot. So many shit-ass things happened that you have to wonder why Justina just didn't go Cartman and say screw you guys, I'm going home.

That's probably because Justina needs to be on some heavy-duty medication to control that bi-polar psychosis she's got going on. I don't think people this unhinged exists in psychology textbooks. Here's a girl that's so all over the board with her emotions, that's so pessimistic and fatalistic and at times downright nasty, I was really hoping Ian would see the forest for the trees and be like holy shit! And run. People tried to help her and she screamed at them. She abandoned all notion of logic and thought of the worst in every single situation despite the numerous people shoving calm logic down her throat. One second she would show some semblance of rationality and then go completely off her rocker the next. I really just wanted someone to throw a bucket of water on her head and maybe give her a slap or two. Unhinged is putting it nicely. As someone that has a tendency to spiral in the brain department, I can half understand her pessimism but she takes it to an extreme that renders psychiatric help.

The thing is, when I finally found out why Ian ditched her, I didn't feel it was an excuse. Because he just up and left her hanging without an explanation and without some kind of notice until something like a half hour later. Of course the people that did know what he was doing didn't divulge the information but it's not like Justina gave them a chance. Funny that she was just as judgmental of Miss Jimmy Choo Shoes (Allyson?) as she claimed Allyson was of her. Except Justina was unhinged about it. Still, Ian was a dick for doing what he did without letting her know where he was going. I personally wouldn't have forgiven him very easily, irrespective of my night turning out like Justina's or not.

The ending was sugary sweet and quite frankly I'm not sure the parties involved deserved it (see above re: dick and irrational headcase). It was a nice ending to a crazy night (honestly, as if one couldn't see that coming a million miles away, since that's how all crazy teen movies end) but it didn't fit the supposed reality of the situation. Someone should have been slapped and someone else should have been chastised for treating people like shit and using them for their own selfish means. But that's just my opinion.

At the end of the day the story was nominally entertaining in a brainless current teen movie sort of way (because the 80s teen movies are INFINITELY better than this) but I didn't see Justina as too likable of a character so I couldn't empathize with her plight and the lack of, whether it's trust in the reader or in the story itself, on the author's part and thus the execution of the story itself made me want to inflict pain on small woodland creatures. But I can definitely see how some people would get a kick out of this, simply because it's so zany and out there. But it was a little too much for me and the way the story was told was a killer. Plus I don't like sitcoms.

Ban Factor: High - Just the drinking, drugs and sexual references alone would have the banners fanning themselves in anger.
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