My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love "voice books": novels with strong, unique first-person narrators. The most impressive "voice books" I have read to date come from African-American authors such as Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker. Sapphire adds another notable book to this collection, with Push.
What strikes me as particularly genuine--and therefore impressive--is the way that Precious, the narrator, depicts other characters in the novel. Her parents, in particular are awful, despicable people who treat her horrifically, and yet she does not seem to harbor a burning hatred or festering resentment against them. As you are repulsed by what you watch happening to Precious, her way of narrating the events and her reactions to them make you not only feel compassion for her, but also for the people doing these things to her. Somehow, she manages to come through as determined instead of hardened, and this is quite an accomplishment to depict in a fictional first-person narrator.
What's more, Precious' voice and writing style improve as the book progresses. An interesting linguistic/literary task would be to take this book and analyze the progression from a linguistic standpoint, to judge exactly what progress she was making and within what timeframe in relation to the events of the novel.
However, what prevents this book from being a 5-star book is the fact that it does not seamlessly incorporate Precious' first-person narration as written by Sapphire with her own "written narration" as she learns to write. I'm not quite sure how this could have been accomplished more efficiently, but forcing the reader to decipher, "Okay, is this Precious the 'mind' narrating here, or is it Precious the 'writer'?" breaks up the rhythm and flow of the novel, especially because although the tone and story remained consistent between the "Precious the mind" and "Precious the writer," the quality and literary merit of the two were not identical and became more and more difficult to decipher as the novel went along. Yet they were never allowed to completely blend: indicating that Precious still had a long road ahead of her, which was obviously very appropriate to the book, but it didn't bring the novel full-circle to the fact that she was narrating--and perhaps writing?--it from the start.
I hope to see the movie adaptation of this, primarily to see how Precious and Blue Rain are represented cinematically. I am also curious to see just how graphic Hollywood will be with all of the sexual issues, especially as they pertain to both parents.