February 26, 2010

Review: Of All the Stupid Things

You know what happens when you try to get organized? A family member ends up in the hospital, your computer dies, and the internet eats your calendar. The IBWB Blogiversary will be a little more makeshift this year. (But still fun! It probably didn't help that school trumps the blog any day of the week.)

By Alexandra Diaz
Available now from EgmontUSA; Review copy

Book Cover

OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS is the story of three friends: Tara, Whitney Blaire, and Pinkie. Each of them have issues that could fill a book alone, so it's surprising that they come together in such a slim volume. For the most part, it works. On the other hand, OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS tends to be too shallow.

I found Pinkie to be the hardest to relate too. She's desperate, calling the guy she likes and her friends constantly. Of course, she doesn't realize the guy (an older club advisor) isn't worth it, despite the fact he never once returns her calls. Now, she does begin to pull herself together and act like a sane person. But we're in her head the least, so her reasons for suddenly changing seems arbitrary. I'm all for the changes she makes in her life, but it felt more like Pinkie was following the path a reader would want her to take than acting as a fully realized character.

Whitney Blaire was an interesting protagonist: impulsive, mean, and manipulating. She's the mean girl who is secrectly looking out for her friends as well as herself. Alexandra Diaz created a character who is an interesting mix of self-interest and good intentions, who needs her relationship with her friends to stay the same since she doesn't have one with her parents. Unfortunately, Tara is nominally the main protagonist so much of Whitney Blaire's story is focused on what Tara is doing and how she feels about Tara instead of her relationships with herself, her parents, and David.

The problem with Tara is that she's a little boring. She does have father issues, since her father abandoned his family. At one point she runs into him accidentally, which leads to emotional fallout. Unfortunately, most of the fallout occurs off-page. A novel about Tara and her mother going off-the-grid to recover from the sudden encounter would be more interesting. Instead, the focus is on her boring relationship issues. She breaks it off with her boyfriend because of a rumor. She (late in the book, but the blurb gives it away) starts going out with a girl without much angst.

To be honest, it all comes back to the issue of shallowness. With less than 300 pages and three narrators and multiple issues for each narrator, OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS tends to lack drama. There isn't enough time to really get into a character's head in order to deeply empathize with what they have going on. I understood what I should be feeling throughout their troubles, but Diaz never made me felt it. As things stand, OF ALL THE STUPID things wasn't terrible. It was a good distraction for an hour. But there were glimpses of books that I'd much prefer to read within it.


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