Blog tour: Boring Girls by Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor has tapped into the very ugly side of girlhood in her novel Boring Girls. At times relatable and other times deeply unsettling, it’s a dark, bloody, and ultimately very sad coming-of-age story demonstrating the awful power that can come from emotional suffering.

Rachel has a lot going for her. Supportive family, good grades, creativity…but she has difficulty making friends at school and starts to get bullied for being weird and different. Classic, right? Not exactly. The anger Rachel feels after a particularly embarrassing confrontation with the token mean girl starts to fester inside of her. I think everyone can remember those moments of feeling so utterly vulnerable, weak, and powerless, it made you sick. Taylor perfectly captures this mindset in Rachel, but where it takes her is somewhere truly darker and more off-putting than I was anticipating. As most teens do, Rachel eventually discovers something to give her a kind of escape from all the crap in her life: metal music. Serious, screaming, graphic metal music (with some of the most creatively gross names i’ve ever heard). She meets Fern who shares her interests and they become fast friends. Wholly inspired by the metal music scene, they start a band and begin to break into the biz, but soon Rachel and Fern realize that the music industry can be just as traumatic and unfriendly to women as high school.  When shit goes down, shattering their illusions, Rachel and Fern don’t shrink away from it all, they do the exact opposite. And it is a murderous mess.

Image-1This book won’t leave you warm and fuzzy in any way. Taylor takes you on a violent revenge spree of these two girls, who are (obviously) anything but boring. The first paragraph teases a massacre, and they aren’t exaggerating. The girls’ vulnerability and rage leads them on a destructive path towards retribution. It’s actually pretty badass as a fiction story, and also very horrifying when you think about how the actions that take place are (and are a result of) some pretty realistic situations encountered by women all over. Nonetheless, Taylor tackles the tough subjects here with unrelenting prose, and the result is a debut novel that is sometimes hard to swallow but even harder to put down.

Review: The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

This has been my “bedtime book” for a few weeks now, but choosing to read a chapter or two before I go to bed, in my apartment in the middle of Toronto, probably wasn’t the best idea for a good night’s rest. The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a thriller that follows 22 year old reporter, Evie, in 1993, when the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka was just starting to crack open. I missed this time completely (I was eating cheerios in a high chair at that point), but that doesn’t mean the effects of this dark period in Ontario’s history didn’t have a ripple effect through my young mother and into my sister and I as we were raised.

Details of the Scarborough Rapist/Bernardo case makes a disturbing and poignant backdrop for Evie’s story. De Mariaffi drops facts from the time to bolster her riveting plot. Evie works as reporter, writing and researching missing girls, which becomes a trigger for her since she experienced a similar situation first hand when her childhood best friend was kidnapped and later found murdered. The excellent tension is derived from Evie’s past trauma, the current atmosphere, and whether Evie’s growing suspicions are a symptom her imagination or real danger. De Mariaffi’s storytelling is sharp and compelling. As genre fiction, it’s takes a left turn from her previous Giller-nominated short story collection, but The Devil You Know offers just as much entertainment.
The Devil You Know2

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

night filmNIGHT FILM.
The first instalment in my October horror show!

The title. The cover. The description. All the markings of a hauntingly perfect novel. But those are often the ones you need to watch out for. The ones that get you TOO excited, because there is almost nothing worse than a story not living up to your inflated expectation. When the idea of it, the kernel of possibility sets a story on fire before you’ve even cracked the spine a little.

Night Film follows a disgraced journalist named Scott McGrath along a consuming and spiralling investigation that begins with a young woman’s sudden death. The woman happens to be the daughter of an infamous horror film director named Stanislas Cordova, known as much for his disturbing films as his reclusive persona. Scott, convinced on an anonymous tip and a strong hunch that Ashley’s death is a direct link to her secretive family heritage, decides to go on the hunt for answers about the obscure Cordovas and in doing so plunges himself in plaguing suspicion.

Night Film delivers on the possibility, the wild goose chase…reaching out for those shiny serpentine strings, and having your imagination fill in the blanks.

As much as the story follows a pretty straightforward breadcrumb trail, the array of characters found in Night Film are extremely interesting – from an aging Hollywood beauty, a witchcraft practitioner, a flamboyant film professor, a pervy goon…However, Pessl’s character Stanislas Cordova is the real heart of this story. His intricate body of work, the secret sprawling manor he lives in, his cult-like following and the whole underground culture it spawns was spellbinding and oozes mystique to the very end. Pessl manages to weave Cordovas pop-history into his storyline, making it feel all the more real, details that include a no-show at the Academy Awards in 1977, a Rolling Stone cover story and a Times piece. Peppered with actual photographs and media clippings, from blogs to newspaper articles and Vanity Fair spreads, Cordova feels like a real-deal celebrity.

Though I had to actively ignore the author’s obsessive use of italics all over the place, the narrative was both reflective and descriptive, tugging at insights concerning fears, truth, suspicion, faith and skepticism.

Though the suggestion and mystery of Cordova is far more fearsome than the actual story (check out these “real” film posters from the author!), the novel is entertaining as hell, and a beautiful object to behold. Though the final revelation might seem lacklustre in comparison to the build-up, I think it was actually suiting to the themes that are tossed around throughout the novel. Night Film delivers on the possibility, the wild goose chase, reaching out for those shiny serpentine strings, letting them take you places and having your imagination fill in the blanks. And even though you want to believe in the possibility of something grander, something extraordinary, the novel brings you gently back down to reality. Disappointing? Not exactly. It’s the trajectory of letting you discover, dig up and run away with a story that makes it exciting. We, like McGrath are strangers in the dark, following a thread of possibility, and it is, like the novel suggests, a human condition to let your imagination wander. To search for mermaids, even though in the end, after you’ve got nothing but a trout in your hands, you realize it was in the journey that the magic really lived and believing was (almost) more satisfying than finding the answer.

Would this not make an astounding movie?