Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

In college, I did wonder about the really smart party kids. They seemed like oxymorons. Back in high school, the hard-core partiers weren't getting straight-As. but Very (short for Veronica) was a straight-A student who is now in her freshman year at Columbia University, an Ivy League school. However, she's not maintaining those straight-As anymore. She is so preoccupied with The Grid, the website she built with a friend to coordinate flash mobs on campus, with memes, and with stalking her online boyfriend who she calls El Virus, that her grades have been suffering tremendously. And the partying also has her in hot water with her R.A. When she's summoned to the Dean's office and her friends stage an intervention at the end of the school year, confiscating her laptop, her phone, and even her iPod, she figures she can handle it. But when she finds out that the friend who had the laptop, which is Very's one remaining link to her mother who died when Very was 12 (she didn't leave much of an inheritance but it was enough for a laptop when Very went to college), she snaps and finds herself strapped to a gurney at a hospital. So instead of a summer job or internship, or the cross-country trip visiting presidential libraries that she had planned, Very spends the summer at a 28-day treatment center in Vermont to break her electronic habit once and for all.

The scenes with Very's therapist were by far the best in the book. But the author was also great at subtly building a frantic pace in the first half, until you are feeling every bit as anxious and sleep-deprived as Very with her IMs and social media and playlists penetrating her every thought. I liked the resolution which wasn't exactly the typical ending for this sort of book, but it worked well. I liked the voice, even if Very isn't a girl I'd be friends with in real life (she sounds fun but exhausting.) I particularly liked the treatment center which was far from perfect, had chronic relapsers along with strict acolytes, and seemed realistic for an addiction treatment center. The revelations about her mother and her childhood were on the one hand predictable, but on the other hand felt atypical and real. And it's not a cliche to say that some people had crappy childhoods with parents who loved them but perhaps didn't know how to be a good parent. This YA novel was on the older side which I also liked as being a little more unusual. Overall, I was drawn in to Very's world and while I'm not eager to hang out with her, I hope she's found more balance and can maintain a less frantic life going forward.

I checked this book out of the library.

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