Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz

Found via: I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell do I Read?

Oh, I wanted to love this one so much. A lesbian romance and coming out story, three girl friends, sports...this had so much going for it on paper, but it falls apart in the execution.

Whitney Blaire, Pinkie and Tara are an inseparable trio of best friends, each quietly wrestling with her own problems. Whitney Blaire is beautiful and rich, but her parents are never around and don't care what she does with herself while she's away. Tara is a star athlete who uses running as a way to block out thoughts of the father that abandoned her when she was little. Pinkie is also missing a parent, her mother who died when Pinkie was a child, and overcompensates by acting as a neurotic mother hen to her two best friends. When Whitney Blaire and Pinkie tell their best friend Tara her boyfriend has been caught fooling around with one of the male cheerleaders, Tara is (naturally) crushed. In the middle of intensive marathon training, Tara doesn't have the time or the energy to handle such a bombshell, and quickly breaks it off, even after Whitney Blaire tries to recant the gossip.

Tara throws herself into her training, until she meets Riley, the new girl in school who's a fellow athlete (a gymnast). With her long black hair and fearless attitude, Tara finds herself drawn to Riley, and discovers she has feelings for the gymnast she's never had for another girl before. As Whitney Blaire and Pinkie discover the depths of this new relationship, they struggle with their own feelings, and what this new revelation might mean for their trio.

There are a ton of subplots going on in this book. Which means it never gets dull, but also means there are some things that don't get as much attention as they deserve. Though I have to say, Pinkie's subplot about dealing with her mother's death, even years and years later, was exceptionally well done. The circumstances behind her mother's death are revealed slowly throughout the story, so that once we know all of the facts some of Pinkie's neuroses make perfect, painful sense.

While I enjoyed the romance between Tara and Riley, I though the opening bit about Tara's boyfriend possibly sleeping with another guy was totally cheap and Tara's reaction was way too sudden. You don't dump your long term boyfriend because of an unsubstantiated rumor like that - without even confronting the guy about it! - unless you've long suspected there's been some hanky panky going on behind your back. Tara hears the rumor, and almost immediately finds said boyfriend and dumps him with next to no explanation. With an opening like that, it was hard to have a lot of desire to stick around for the rest of the story.

Overall I thought Whitney Blaire's and Pinkie's reactions to Tara's and Riley's relationship were good, with one reacting mildly-to-moderately homophobically, and the other accepting Tara with a shrug. I would have liked to have a little more nuance to the homophobic reaction, however. It was great to have a character that had been built up for us as a sympathetic character suddenly have a glaring character defect of homophobia, but it was such a sudden change that my mind was reeling as before the big reveal there was absolutely no clue she could be so harsh and judgmental.

This is Diaz's debut novel, and while Of All the Stupid Things isn't the strongest novel ever, my interest is piqued and I look forward to seeing what else she does.

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