By Ibi Kaslik
From The Spellman Files to Skinny, I went from fun to serious. Fun reading is definitely superior in many ways (I must admit, I unhesitatingly took a break from Skinny after acquiring TSF so I actually went from serious to fun and then back to serious again), but once in a while you can learn about life stuff by undergoing “serious” reading. For instance, you can learn firsthand how such a bright and promising medical student and her little eating disorder can tear a Hungarian-Canadian family apart. Yes, welcome to teen Can Lit!
So here we have Giselle and her younger teenage sister, Holly, with each chapter alternating from the perspective of each character as they deal with the familiar struggles of growing up, school, boys, etc. Some serious trepidations I had when the first chapter awkwardly introduces Giselle in the hospital recovering from her first anorexic bout, with her wondering how she ended up there: The image I had of my future was all straight out of a Hollywood film – melancholy little suburban girl goes to university, finds herself, gets a life, a boy, a degree. Start nostalgic music, cut to me inside my tiny shared student apartment… She is me, this girl, she is Hello-My-Name-Is…
Oh dear. Olman would’ve thrown the book across the room after reading this. But I being meezly, and a far more dauntless reader, plowed on. After all, I had picked this up for only $5 at a used bookshop while passing through a quaint and nameless town in Ontario, not to mention Kaslik is a hot young Montreal writer with some hipster cachet. So even though the self-conscious writing had the unsurprising tendency of taking itself a little too seriously by wallowing in troubled lives, it wasn’t so bad. The sincerity was there. I mean, it’s unpleasant dealing with troubled people in life, let alone reading about them. I myself am a fairly well-adjusted gal who’s had a fairly stable upbringing. And I’ve known friends or relatives who’ve experienced real setbacks before, but no one has ever really been a real fuckup. The difference between a regular person and a fuckup is when shit’s falling apart, the fuckup will, inadvertently or willingly, take down everyone with her.
Kaslik has no qualms about exploring how Giselle ends up fucking up her life by delving into her complex relationship with her father. If you know deep down that your father never really loved you and that he always maintained an inexplicable distance towards you, and then he dies, and you realize in college that it was due to some untold family secret. The lack of love and reconciliation is like a little demon seed that grows inside an already very delicate psyche, and then add to that medical school and trying to have a normal college life, then well yeah, that could be a recipe for a psychological timebomb.
As a female, I’ve never had much sympathy for women obsessed with their bodies, and I can’t say reading this book helped in garnering any more sympathy for Giselle and Holly. It didn’t help that I couldn’t’ relate to their personalities nor their trials and tribulations. But the book did give me an interesting perspective into why certain people behave so irrationally in life. And how some people end up as total fuckups.
I don't know if I'd ever check out Kaslik's next book, which is supposed to be about the Montreal indie music scene. I can imagine Olman having a field day with this one!