Others have and will review this better than I can, but what the heck, i’ll take a stab at it. This book seems to inspire either intense love or intense hate and not much in between based on the reviews at goodreads. However, it won lots of prizes and was on several “best of” lists, so i gave it a shot.
And my final verdict? An impressive high wire act that is a chore to read. The author has finely crafted a work of metafiction, one that I can imagine reading right after “Lost in the Funhouse” in my contemporary fiction class many years ago. I imagine that my modern lit professor would have (and probably does) love it, and I think my younger english major self would have enjoyed it in a classroom setting – sitting in a semi-circle half arguing, half discussing the book with my peers, later writing a pretentious paper that started with an obscure quote.
But i didn’t read this in an English class; instead, i read it on long subway rides and on the sofa, where i found myself anxiously awaiting the next break in the text so I could take a break. Not that it was especially difficult to read – it was just kind of boring, i think?
The book is divided into thirds, with the first third taking place in the 80s in a performing arts school. Drama club kids are finely rendered and the teenage romance is suitably tortured in this section, but I just got tired of it – and I love a high school romance. I think here, I had such high expectations for this novel that this first section seemed too ordinary.
But then! In an attempt to not spoil anything, the next section reveals there is no safety net in this trust exercise of a story. Were you bamboozled? Here and in the third and final section, we see Choi’s construction, which earned her well deserved accolades. However, I was so uninterested in these characters and their story that I could barely bring myself to skim the rest of the novel. While I see what she did here and appreciate its brilliance, I would prefer more story. But YMMV! Give it a try, keep an open mind.