Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fiction | Finding Freedom on the Open Road


Usually, as one deeply committed to the literary realm, I am disinclined to admit that I judge books by their cover. But this one I totally did. I absolutely fell in love with this cover, and that was my sole reason for picking it up.

Luckily, the actual story in Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments did not disappoint.

Colby and his best friend Bev have had a plan since they started high school. Upon graduation, they were putting college on hold and packing up to backpack through Europe instead. But not before their final farewell—a week-long tour with Bev’s band, The Disenchanments, from San Francisco up the coast to Portland. The tour doesn’t start so well, though, when Bev reveals to Colby that she’s abandoning their plans to start college in the fall.

It’s not so much Bev’s abandonment of their plans, though Colby is mega-disappointed he won’t be traipsing around Europe with his best friend. It’s that he knows she has been lying to him for so long—long enough to apply, long enough to get accepted, and long enough to make plans—all while going on as if they’re really heading to Europe after the tour.

It doesn’t help that (of course) Colby is actually totally in love with Bev, making this situation 1,000 times worse for him.

The Disenchanments covers the week of that road trip, and it’s a pretty delightful, optimistic experience. We experience the story through Colby’s eyes, and he’s clearly feeling a lot. Not just about Bev and the situation at hand; he’s thinking all about friendships, relationships, love, and life—particularly, what exactly he’s going to be doing with his once this road trip is done. All the interesting people they meet along the way—never too “out there” and never “too much” to feel contrived—are like pieces of the puzzle Colby is working on about his life.

The thing I liked most about this book is like what I said about the characters not feeling contrived. It never felt like the author was trying to hard to make a statement about life and uncertainty and the freedom that comes after high school. For example, you’d think that, being on tour and all, The Disenchantments would have a following. But in reality, they kinda suck. And Colby knows it. And everyone who listens to them knows it. And the band members themselves probably know it. But they don’t care. They like to play, so they do. It would’ve felt too phony if, on top of everything else, the band was actually amazing. Instead, I think it provided this amazing message about originality in a tone that didn’t take itself too seriously. It felt authentic.

Overall, it made me want that exhilarating feeling of uncertainty when you have nothing but freedom before you—both on the road and in life.


zibilee said…

I would have never picked this one on my own, but your review has me thinking again. I love it when characters and situations don't seem contrived, and the fact that the bind id kind of stinky is cute and very realistic. I am going to look for this one. Thanks for the wonderfully insightful review!

Kari said…

I do so love good YA that isn't too angsty! Having read so much of it for my class last semester, you can tell when it's an author writing what they think teens would think or feel and to what degree. It's nice hearing a voice that seems more authentic than that.