Novel: The Me Culture
Author: Jessica Dall
While this book had the potential to be a coming of age story in the vein of Catcher in the Rye and Go Ask Alice, it sadly let itself down a fair bit.
The Me Culture follows the story of Kaydence Marshal, a teen on the debating team, cheerleading team and a member of the drama department who, as a result of befriending Shawn Conwell, becomes more aware of the alternative viewpoints around drugs and experiments a little. More importantly, she falls in love with Shawn, her polar opposite. Where she is disciplined and academic, he is sporty and extroverted. But, they fall in love, and the story deals with their relationship with each other, and their experimentation with drugs.
The drug aspect of the book is well-researched and interesting, and the use of Alex Conwell as an example of how very wrong it could go is expected, and necessary to stop the book from reading like a pamphlet by Timothy Leary. But I was looking forward to a little more experimentation, and less of Kaydence being so very highly-strung about it throughout despite her knowledge on the subject. While I understood where she was coming from in her arguments against Alex’s drug use and Paul’s, she got a little hysterical, and I found myself agreeing with Shawn when he told her to stop being the police force.
At times, it reads like a typical American teen movie, and if this is what the author is striving for, then mission accomplished. There were flashes of excellent wit, but unfortunately it got bogged down in repetitive dialogue. The fights between Kaydence and Shawn were well-handled, and the writing in those scenes are some of the best examples. Kaydence’s own letters to her psychiatrist were quite self-indulgent and irritating to read due to her arrogance about how smart she is.
The ending does save the book. It was not an ‘and everyone got married, lived out the American dream and ate pie’ ending, but a more realistic one. I am hopeful that things work out as Kaydence and Shawn would like them to. But as much as the book tries to offer an alternative view of drugs as opposed to the ‘drugs are unconditionally evil’, it still ends up with that message.
There are a great deal of spelling mistakes, so many that I can’t help wondering if the manuscript was seen by anyone else before it got published. Typos, poor grammar, AWOL punctuation…these are not things that should be appearing in any book that wants to be taken seriously.
I think that, with revision and reworking, this novel could develop into a great read. But it feels rushed in places, and dwells too long on the romantic moments, slowing the pace down and shifting the focus away from the effect of drugs on their relationship, and their interaction with others. It could have been a great story about conquering drugs, or putting forward a different viewpoint and supporting it well enough to make the book controversial in the best way. Instead, it reads like an average love story, and if one is to stand out amongst the published, it needs to be polished, sharp and professional.
Summary: This novel has great potential if it is edited and polished.
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