Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marie C.'s Review of Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine

Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine. Published 2011 by Europa Editions.

So I realized last night that I'd miscounted and I was a book behind completing Amante Level and since it would be very embarrassing to set up a challenge I couldn't complete myself, I decided to try to cram in one last Europa before the clock strikes midnight on Saturday. Luckily, Sara Levine's hilarious novel Treasure Island!!! is a short, quick, addictive read, and I finished in less than a day.

Sometimes in literature you'll come across what's called an unreliable narrator, someone whose perspective is skewed or biased or who is telling only part of the story. Usually such a narrator has a motive for telling his or her story slantwise; the character is trying to sell his or her version of events for some self-interested reason. Maybe the character is trying to justify a particular misdeed, or cover something up, or cast blame elsewhere. Whatever the reason, there is usually a reason for the deception; the character is not so out to lunch as to lose control of the narrative. And unreliable-narrator stories are all about control. This narrator, whose name we never learn, isn't unreliable- she's whacked-out crazy. When we meet her, she's 25 and obsessed with the classic Stevenson novel Treasure Island, trying to apply its lessons about bravery and independence to her own uncertain life. She works at a place called The Pet Library but does everything she can to avoid actually working. She steals money from her boss to buy a parrot that she then flamboyantly mistreats; as a matter of fact, there's no one in her life who escapes her flamboyancy or her cruelty. Her feckless, well-meaning boyfriend, her loving parents and her sister and her best friend all end up on the business end of her narcissism and indifference.

The book reads incredibly quickly, with short chapters and an unrelenting comic pacing. I simply was not able to put the book down as I flipped the pages to see where the heroine would come out, and how, and where in the wreckage the other characters would end up. Was she likable? No. Was she hilarious, if you stop thinking about her as a real person and accept her as a grotesque caricature? Yes, oh my goodness yes. Hilarious. And there is no reason for what she does. There is no grand misdeed she's hiding, no blame she's placing elsewhere except that she's placing it everywhere. You don't have to like her to like the book, but you have to be willing to go along for the ride. If you like out-there comedy and riotous shenanigans of a borderline psychopath who might just find redemption despite it all, read Treasure Island!!!!

And now I've reached Amante Level!