Monday, February 1, 2016

How did you get here?

If you have not read Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann, stop reading.  Go to your library or bookstore and obtain a copy.  Read it.  Process.  Pro-cesssssss.  Rejoice in Hepperman's take-no-prisoners truthfulness about what it's like being a girl.

Okay, have you done that?  If not, I forgive you, but you really must, must, must read that book.  As for Ask Me How I Got Here?  It's an okay book, but it didn't blow me away like Poisoned Apples did. The plot was overly simple and some of the characterizations bordered on cliche.


Ask Me How I Got Here is a novel in verse about Addie, a track star at her Catholic high school.  She writes poetry, and the narrative alternates between events in her life and the poems she writes to cope.  Often, the poems riff on traditional Catholic teachings, and they can be very funny.

I'm taking a deep breath so I can tell you what I really think: at first glance, this moral of this book sounds awfully like, "If you have sex with a guy and get an abortion, you will become a lesbian/bisexual."  And I know that's an oversimplification, but that's the message I got.  The book doesn't make any of that negative, but it implies a certain causality.  It's kind of like the "She was raped as a child, therefore she is queer" rationale.  People who loved this book will no doubt round on me and tell me how I can't see nuance, I can't identify feminism, and maybe even how I just plain don't "get it."  That's okay.  I'm telling you what my gut said, not my head.  Intellectually, I understand that Addie's choices indicate a burgeoning desire to be her own person, not the Coach's track star, not Nick's girlfriend.

I feel like a poor stegosaurus with its pebble-sized brain, lumbering around this topic that I fully admit I am no expert on.

The poetry is beautiful, but the logic isn't always there.  Addie needs her parents' consent to have an abortion, which she obtains, and they support her decision, but later on, when she skips track and cuts off all of her friends, they are very easily fooled by her lies.  To be fair, Nick isn't exactly a prize catch, but Addie treats him like he is the Evil Impregnator and drops him like a hot potato.  And finally, her relationship with Juliana, a former track team member, totally hit me out of the blue.  I had no inkling (see stegosaurus brain above) that they felt anything for each other more than mutual hatred of track and friends due to being self-imposed outcasts.

I know a lot of people will love this.  I wanted to love it, but I didn't find the depth and snark that I loved so much in Poisoned Apples.  At the end, I found myself asking the title question: "How did I get here?" and I don't think the journey was worth it.

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