Friday, June 26, 2015

Weightless ~ Sarah Bannan (earc) review [@sarahkeegs @stmartinspress]

St Martin's Griffin
June 30, 2015
336 pages
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Weightless is one of those books whose summary, I think, gives too much away. I can understand why, in this case, but I still think you may wan to skip reading it - or at least all of it.

When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.

Sarah Bannan's deft use of the first person plural gives Weightless an emotional intensity and remarkable power that will send you flying through the pages and leave you reeling.

Weightless may be the first novel I've read that was told in the first person plural. In the beginning (having not read or otherwise forgotten the summary) I wondered if it was going to continue for the whole book. To be honest, it kind of bugged me a bit in the beginning. I like knowing my narrators, knowing who they are, how they think, what they do, what they say.

In this book we have a more ambiguous narrator. We know they're part of a group of girls who aren't quite popular, but aren't outcasts. Members of the swim team, known to the popular girls, they're on the periphery.

They watch, from that first summer day, as Carolyn Lessing,joins their lives in small Adamsville, Alabama. From New Jersey and having previously attended a private school, Carolyn is different from the girls in Adamsville. She's a Yankee, she dresses differently and doesn't understand AHS's 'rules.' Yet, Carolyn's also pretty, smart and athletic so she's immediately included.

But Carolyn's upset the balance at Adams High School. They are kids who, all but a couple, have gone to school together their whole lives. They have history, they have reputations, they have relationships and expectations. Even with possibly stealing someone's boyfriend, Carolyn fits.

Until she doesn't.

The telling of Weightless really did feel different. It wasn't just the 'we' narration, which I grew more accustomed to as the book progressed, it was what that meant. As a reader, I felt almost a step removed from the actual story - of Carolyn and the others. It is a part of the story - that everything is observed more than taken part in, recollected as a whole more than an individual - but it definitely gives a different feeling. One I both liked and didn't.

Without being spoilery, Weightless deals with bullying and some horrible, painful, heartbreaking things happen. For me, though, this is some of where the narration style was a letdown. It works because you realize that we are the 'we' that it's not just these girls in small-town Alabama, it's us. At the same time, it felt like their 'we' narration was a was of mitigating their culpability, of excusing their actions and removing responsibility.

While that may be more of my problem with the characters than the novel, I'm not sure. I hated some of the characters, I was amazed at some and wanted to somehow whisk others to safety. I don't know if I like where things ended, but I know I won't forget this novel.

Weightless is different, unique and, perhaps most of all, incredibly honest and thought provoking.

Other Books You Might Also Enjoy: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, Those Girls by Lauren Saft (Carolyn made me think about Veronica) and All the Rage by Courtney Summers

thank you to the publisher for my review copy via NetGalley

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