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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Albatross Fascinating For the Whys

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Bella and Edward. Clary and Jace. Grace and Sam. Zara and Nick. The list of destined-to-be-together teenage couples goes on and on and on. Yes, they're fictional, but aren't these literary pairings kind of sending the message that unless a girl's found her soulmate by high school graduation something's seriously wrong with her? Or, if she isn't dropping all her friends/family commitments/hobbies/extracurricular activities for a guy, she doesn't really love him? Am I reading too much into this? Author Josie Bloss doesn't think so. She wrote her newest novel, Albatross, partly in response to the disturbing trend of YA authors romanticizing controlling, manipulative, and emotionally abusive behavior in their characters' love lives. The book's no ditzy satire, either; it's a serious look at how consuming and crippling such relationships can be.
The book involves Tess, a high schooler who has just moved from Chicago to the smallish town of Grand River, Michigan. While her parents' impending divorce brings mostly relief, Tess still isn't completely thrilled with the move. Sure, she's got a couple of school friends, her music and a close relationship with her mom, but she's still lonely, anxious and bored in her new town. Then, she notices Micah. His broody good looks seem to confirm the rumors - the guy's some kind of genius. She's even more intrigued by his odd on-again-off-again relationship with the beautiful Daisy. Tess' new friends warn her away from the strange couple, but she feels inexplicably drawn to them. When she finally gets the chance to know Micah, Tess finds that he's everything she thought he would be - smart, sophisticated, and mysterious. Maybe he does come off as weird, but that's only because no one understands him like Tess does.
As Tess falls deeper under Micah's spell, she realizes some disturbing truths about the guy. Something about the way he toys with her emotions just seems ... wrong. Is it her fault for being too clingy? Is Tess pushing away the only person with whom she's managed to really connect in Grand River? Why would Micah choose her anyway, when he already has the attention of the lovely Daisy? What does Tess have to do, exactly, to get Micah to look at her the way he looks at Daisy? How far will she go to win his love? In this dark tale of young love and dangerous obsession, Tess has to break away before the chains of codependency can drag away every last bit of self-respect she possesses.

While the story didn't exactly reach out and grab me, Albatross is a book I haven't been able to get off my mind. Book clubs will likely have a field day with this one. It's thought-provoking, to be sure, but it also gets annoyingly heavy-handed. Bloss' aim is clear from the get-go, so obvious that it almost acts as a spoiler. We know exactly what Tess is going to do, and she does it. No surprises. What is interesting about the story is the psychology, the whys - Why do otherwise intelligent women fall for complete jerks? Why do they allow themselves to be treated poorly? Why do children who grow up witnessing their parents' destructive relationships often end up repeating them? Like Bloss, I find these questions fascinating. In fact, they are the only thing that really stuck with me after reading the book - not the characters, the plotline or the writing.
Overall, Albatross was kind of a weird read for me. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?
Note: If you're interested in the topic of unhealthy relationships in YA literature, check out this post Bloss wrote for Bites: Chomping on books and spitting out reviews.
(Readalikes: I can't think of any off the top of my head. Can you?)
Grade: B-
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language, sexual innuendo/making out, underrage drinking/partying
To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the generous folks at Flux. Thanks!


  1. Hm...this does sound interesting for its ideas, but I'm afraid I would avoid it for its lack of other appealing factors.

  2. I like ya books,I might try it, thanks! for the good review.

  3. I am just starting my networking from the Blog Hop, i'm a new follower.

    My blog if interested

  4. Hi! I'm finally getting around. Sigh. I loved the link you included about what the author said. I've been thinking a lot recently about romance in YA.

    On a different note, I've been chuckling about all the things we have in common. Reading, blogging (of course :), BYU, English major (though I still have 4 credits), husband who served in Chile, several children, word games, married in 1997/8 and had kids quickly. Geesh! I'm wishin' you lived next door!

    Anyway. Now following!

  5. I like books with surprises too..
    Have a great weekend!

  6. I stopped by your blog today. Thanks for the review.

    Ann Summerville
    Cozy In Texas


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