Marlena by Julie Buntin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Curiously, this book felt more like a memoir than a fiction novel . . . and I think that's a compliment. Ultimately, Marlena is one long character sketch that--as any good novel-length character sketch should-- reveals more about the narrator's character than the one being sketched. It also walks the fine line between YA and adult fiction, and does so successfully without being too nuanced for the former audience or patronizing to the latter. That in and of itself is impressive.
I can't say I actually "liked" the book, because it's so very gloomy from start to finish; even the happier moments are bittersweet, because you know how it's all going to wind up in the end. As such, I think the novel was genuine and true to its characters, but it also felt like one long drawn-out road to the inevitable.
One thing I did like, however, apart from the authentic, multi-dimensional characters, was how the setting felt almost like a character itself. It established the tone and mood perfectly: the feelings of desolation and utter boredom, tinged with just the faintest undertone of danger.
Buntin is clearly a talented writer, and while I can't say this was on my top 10 list of favorite books, I look forward to seeing what else she produces.
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