And Then Things Fall Apart
Simon and Schuster
Keek’s life was totally perfect.
Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.
Summary and photo from Goodreads.com
So the other day during work I was on break reading this and my Emily Dickinson poems for the day. While I was reading Emily Dickinson, one of my fellow employees asked what I was reading. I told him Emily Dickinson. Then he made all these jokes about how depressing she was and har dee har har and why don’t I read some Sylvia Plath while I’m at it, and I went, “well, actually… this book here (pointing to And Then Things Fall Apart) is pretty much inspired by The Bell Jar.” And then he guffawed and made more jokes.
The glory of Keek’s obsession with Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar is you don’t have to read it in order to get through this book. On one level And Then Things Fall Apart is about a girl who just loves books and uses them to understand her world around her. A really neat chain started to develop while I was reading, Keek kept relating to Esther (the mc in The Bell Jar), and I kept relating to Keek. It was like a three person massage line!
I’m pretty sure Keek is one of my more favorite characters I’ve read. Arlaina Tibensky did an awesome job of rounding out Keek, so I got a good feel for her personality and hobbies and likes/dislikes. One of my favorite things is when a writer successfully puts as many details as possible into the story, without the readers even noticing it and then at the end of the book they know the mc (and others too!) like a good friend without having meant to know the character so well. Tibenskey won at this game!
Keek essentially is a book lover, and she said quite a few things that I got out my trusty pen to record. Here were some of my favorite lines:
“Everyone is wrong and everyone is right and we are alive so there you go” (238).
“Reading makes me feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives in addition to my own. Characters in books really stick around for me. You know cartoon cells, the translucent sheets they draw on to make cartoons? Every time I read a book, especially one that grabs my guts, there is another translucent layer added to what makes me, me. Each layer is saturated in color and signed by the artist” (177).
That last one about reading I ADORE. Also, if any of you are going to major in college this is going to happen to you all the time:
“Like when people (my parents) ask what I’m going to study in college and I say ‘English.’ They say, ‘Oh. So you want to be a teacher?’ And I want to cover my eyes and mouth with duct tape and pretend to be dead and done with it. No, you simpletons. I want to travel and write and live in a big city and do cool things with my brain.”
I especially love the last part. I want to do cool things with my brain!
So as you can see, Keek has a pretty awesome sense of humor.
While there are a lot of funnies in this, there is a level of seriousness too (laced with her jokes, of course). At the end of the day, Keek is still dealing with the reality of her parents perchance getting a divorce and her boyfriend wanting to do IT (not while she’s still chicken pox-y of course). While I’m lucky in that my parents are still happily married, I still was able to relate on some level to that feeling of being betrayed. No one is perfect, and regardless of good intentions I’m sure almost everyone has wondered, “why did you do this to me?!”
Also, her talk about doing IT is something I believe would be beneficial to a lot of high schoolers. She’s just one girl who is really tempted to do it, but still isn’t sure if she’s ready. It’s an honest monologue weighing what is the best decision for her. While her boyfriend, Matt, is ready to get it on asap and he does put some pressure on her (just by wanting to do it), I am glad that he REALLY respected her feelings and never was a jerk about the whole situation.
Last but not least, I really like the grandmother. While you don’t see her a TON, Keek gets to know her as more of a person and less of a simple grandma. There comes a time in your life (ha, don’t I sound so wise?) when you’re going to see your parents and all your role models as actual people– the good and the bad. It sucks. But at the same time, it doesn’t. Keek has this awesome perspective on the subject, and I think you should go read this and find out what it is:).
Overall Review: There were a few parts where I got kind of antsy, but I really enjoyed learning more and more about Keek and learning more about her viewpoint of the world. Tibensky deals with a lot of stuff in here (growing older, divorce, sex, parents, friends) that even twentysome-year-olds can relate to. I am really picky with my re-reads ( and really emotional about it too– basically I generally re-read what I crave) so I don’t know if I would personally re-read this one, but I really appreciate the place I’m in because of it (MINUS MY COLD WHICH IS MORPHING INTO WEIRD PLACES THAT THIS BOOK GAVE ME. I’ve never had a head-cold quite like this. It stinks. Or it would stink if I could actually smell anything. Alright, enough whining) and so I would definitely give this as a gift.
Speaking or re-reading…: What do you tend to re-read? For me it’s either Sarah Dessen books or books that make me really emotional, like The Onion Girl by Charles DeLint. Oh, and Harry Potter, of course!