A few years ago I made a deal with myself that I would never apply a star rating to a book that I would have scored < 3 (ETA this note that I mean “less than 3 stars” rather than [heart emoji]). I also went through my entire Goodreads (then pretty prolific) and deleted every single written review, leaving only the star ratings. Short of a book that I found particularly offensive that I thought should require content warnings, I had no written reviews and no star ratings. My own personal and professional motto is “You do you.” Given my job and my praxis, it’s important for me to stick to that. I believe in participation trophies for everyone. I believe in radical inclusion. I believe in aggressive and audacious acceptance. I believe tolerance is bullshit. I don’t believe in neutrality. I believe the worst of us – the worst about us – demands and deserves the most transparency, 100% of the time, absolutely and without question.
All of that to say, Community Board is particularly offensive in that it pretends that it’s something it’s not. It feels like it’s trying to be radical when it’s the most offensively milquetoast version of anything I just mentioned above. It’s the equivalent of the black square for Black lives on Instagram after George Floyd’s lynching. It’s corporate rainbow washing – Lockheed Martin marching in the Pride parade. It’s H&M’s “green” “organic” “natural” “sustainable” fast fashion line.
Maybe it’s the tacked-on racial and sexual diversity.
Maybe it’s the fact that the “forced isolation” of our 29 year-old actuary wunderkind comes as a result of her husband cheating on her.
Maybe it’s the fully stocked house in (paraphrasing here, but nevertheless, it’s almost verbatim) the single and last remaining example of pure, unadulterated “democracy” actually governed by a “community.”
Maybe it’s that same place being described as the perfect harmonious multicultural/ multiethnic utopia conveniently located in… two hours from Boston. This Boston?
Maybe it’s the way “differently abled” (vom) is dropped not once but twice just to make sure we all know how sensitive our author and character is to the daily plight of the disabled to be included in this like playgrounds. (Note: Don’t fucking use “differently abled” FYI there’s nothing wrong with saying “disabled” guess what? People who are disabled are disabled. It’s OK. It’s not bad. It’s not nasty. It’s not a slur. “Black” is not a slur. “Gay” is not a slur. “Disabled” is not a slur. Avoiding those terms lets us all know you think those things are… bad.)
First, why did I pick up this book? For the same reason, Conklin wrote it: I, like a bunch of other Oregon Trail generation and millennials feel a great deal of disconnection from community. Perhaps not because of the COVID pandemic, but it’s become clear since the COVID pandemic. We’ve all become aware of things, perhaps, that have been happening slowly for a long time, including the way our values as individuals – as human people – have not been aligned with our lifestyles for a loooong time. I wanted something cozy. I wanted something that focused on community – really community, not whatever this book thinks “community” is. And this book seemed to hit on that. The synopsis was very relatable. Relatable to me and relatable to The Moment (TM).
Second, I read lots of cozy mysteries… but I feel like I need cozy something elses. This seemed to be something like that. A “general fiction” type cozy title rather than a genre heavy one. And… yeah, I still need that.
Third, why leave a review now? Why did this book get me so upset? Why bother writing a bad review or a bad recap of a book that I know lots of people will like. It’s for them! It’s not like offensive-offensive. It offends my pure sense of whatever and that’s more insufferable than, you know, body shaming 29 year-old protagonists in a book that includes Little Free Libraries as a main plot point and itself calls out phony progressiveness or attempts at inclusion like dropping Spanish phrases and wearing offensively Party City-esque indigenous headdresses in order to “get in touch with my heritage” by a white dude trying to tap into the casino game.
Why review? … Given the words I wasted above telling anyone who reads this why I made the rule in the first place not to review? Probably because, just like this dumb MC, I decided to join a community. I decided to be responsible for my part of keeping that community vibrant and alive. That community? Cannonball Read. I made a commitment to write about the books I read this year, because I felt kind of disconnected from community. I can’t do it irl because it’s not my praxis. It’s not kind. Kindness is my praxis. My whole professional vibe. So I choose to do it here. For you all.
I mean… maybe you’ll like it. A book for every reader and a reader for every book and all that. This one’s definitely not for me. If you want community because you, like me and like Conklin, feel a little disconnected from everyone else… read… a cozy mystery or something. Read The Dispossessed and read about actual community. Take a walk. Make a friend. Become a regular at a coffee shop. Watch Gilmore Girls or 227 reruns. Start playing Dungeons and Dragons or Magic the Gathering and get yourself to a gaming store or library where they throw down. Or, you know, join an online book review community and commit to writing reviews and commenting on reviews just to let people know you’re listening.